Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Interpreters Receive Court Certificates

Language has no barriers in courts across the Buckeye state thanks to these court interpreters who became certified by the Ohio Supreme Court on March 10.

For Diana López-Alérs, the certificate means her language interpreter services used in Warren County are validated.

“It gives you credibility about your profession, the job that you are doing. It tells everyone that you are qualified to do the job,” López-Alérs said. “That you have gone through an extensive training to be able to do this job and not just speak two languages well.”

The Supreme Court, through its Language Services Program, began certifying court interpreters in 2010. In January 2013, all Ohio courts were required to use a certified language or sign language interpreter during court proceedings when available to ensure equal access to justice to all deaf and limited English proficient individuals.

Born in New York, López-Alérs moved to Puerto Rico at a young age and considers Spanish as her first language. She first moved to Ohio in the mid-80s and started interpreting for the court system in 2009.

“It’s very rewarding,” López-Alérs said. “You’re guiding them about the process in court. Most people don’t know how the court works.”

López-Alérs was just one of nearly two dozen interpreters who passed written and oral tests in 2014 and 2015 in seven different languages.

Justyna Ragiel-Smith became the first Polish certified interpreter in the state and is just one of 14 in the country.

“I’m very proud of it. It feels great,” Ragiel-Smith said. “I just fell in love with it – the whole settings, the court register– and I just realized it’s a very interesting thing to do and also to help people who can feel comfortable in court settings. I’d be happy to help them.”

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor commended the interpreters and said the Supreme Court is committed to supporting their important work.

“It really is an institution that we’ve developed here and it is not only an institution for Ohio but it’s recognized nationally for what we do in training interpreters and it’s used as a model and we’re very proud of that,” Chief Justice O’Connor said.

There are currently 76 court certified interpreters across Ohio and a new group began their testing cycle last month, which will bring a new certified class next year.