The Iowa Supreme Court’s chief justice says the state’s courts are struggling to accommodate a growing number of non-English speakers in courthouses throughout the state. Chief Justice Marsha Ternus says it’s not just Spanish speakers who need an interpreter in order to appear in court or file court documents.
"A recent analysis of our statewide use of Language Line, a service to access interpreters over the telephone, identified twenty-eight foreign languages, from Albanian to Vietnamese, spoken in Iowa’s courts in a recent twelve-month period," Ternus said this week during her "State of the Judiciary" message. Ternus is asking lawmakers to provide the court more money to cover the costs of interpreters. Representative Todd Taylor, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, co-chairs the committee that writes the budget for the state’s justice system.
"I don’t believe that is inconsistent with our ‘English Only’ law that we’ve had on the books for a few years, so I think it’s critical again that we fight for equal access to all for our courts," Taylor says. The chief justice outlined a list of requests for lawmakers this week, including a plea for more money for judges’ salaries. She also asked lawmakers for more money to hire more juvenile court officers and judges to hear cases involving kids.
Representative Taylor says it makes sense to pay better attention to kids in the court system and get them the help they need so they won’t embark on a life of crime. "If we focus on this type of stuff now for juvenile justice, we won’t have to continue to look at more prisons like we are, so I like the approach." Taylor says. Chief Justice Ternus thanked lawmakers for providing more money last year so more foster kids have a single judge assigned to follow their cases from beginning to end.