History of the Court Interpreter Program

Although many people believe that court interpreting is a new field in the United States, nothing could be further from the truth. There are courthouses in the United States built in the 1800’s, which provided space in the courtroom for the interpreter. The famous Amistad trials, memorialized by Steven Spielberg film in a 1997, chronicle the use of an interpreter during a trial involving the slave trade. Perhaps the best-known use of interpreters was during the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminal after World War II. The Court Interpreter’s Act of 1978 officially instituted the first Court Interpreter Program in the federal Courts. States such as California quickly established strong interpreting programs; it quickly became evident that the need for interpreters would continue to grow in the United States and limited resources made it difficult for individual states to efficiently afford all the resources necessary to find qualified interpreters. In 1995, several pioneer states, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Oregon joined forces, creating the Consortium for Language Access in the Courts (formerly known as the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification). These states pooled resources together in order to create stronger programs in their states, sharing training and examination materials. The Consortium has grown quickly and is now 40 strong. Member states of the Consortium are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois/Cook County, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Vermont.

Maryland joined the Consortium in 1996 and by state standards its court interpreter program is well established. Since joining, Maryland has faced an ever-increasing need for interpreter services. Never losing sight of the need to maintain quality, Maryland has successfully implemented training programs, which have yielded a diverse pool of professional interpreters who help insure equal access to the court system to all individuals who seek it.