The state’s top judge is proposing a plan to deal with those using the court system who don’t speak or understand English very well. Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus says Iowa’s population has become more and more diverse, and that’s showing in the court system.
Ternus says due to Iowa’s increasingly diverse population, more and more people who don’t understand English are ending up in court, and that makes interpreters an essential court service. Ternus says federal law mandates that everyone have access to interpreters to be provided proper legal representation. She says noncompliance can result in a loss of federal funding, and while she says the court has adopted measures to ensure the courts use well qualified interpreters, they struggle to provide interpreters for civil cases, cases in rural areas, and interpreters in areas other than Spanish.
Ternus says other state agencies and the state school systems are facing the same situation and she suggests the state create an organization to help everyone. Ternus suggests a statewide language interpreters center that pools and coordinates interpreter resources. She says having a central point for the services can better meet the demand for different languages, ensure quality control, and mange costs through economies of scale. Ternus says this is the time to move ahead with this plan.
"The fact that the state’s financial resources are limited is only more reason that the state should explore this collaborative solution, perhaps through a legislative interim study committee," Ternus says, "by pooling our experiences and resources, however limited, we can surely accomplish more than we do with each government entity and private business struggling to on their own." Ternus made her comments during her annual "State of the Judiciary" address to legislators Wednesday.