Court translators call for larger raise
By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer
Interpreters who translate court proceedings for non-English-speaking defendants have delivered a message in plain English to officials proposing a new pay schedule for them: It's still not enough.
"Interpreters make equal access to justice possible," said Alohalani Boido, a Spanish-language interpreter and spokeswoman for the Interpreter Action Network, a group that has lobbied for months for a raise for the 200-plus interpreters working in the court system.
"The pay will not enable the courts to retain competent interpreters," Boido said. "It's too little, too late."
Friday was the deadline to respond to the first proposed increase in interpreter pay in 20 years.
The translators now get paid by the half-day, or four-hour period: For an interpreter who is uncertified, as most of them are, the rate is $50 for a trial, $40 for all other duties.
Under the proposal to be reviewed Thursday by the Hawai'i Supreme Court Committee on Court Interpreters, these interpreters would get $50 for any two hours in court, including hearings and trials; and $40 for any two hours of out-of-court jobs, such as probation interviews and meetings with attorneys. For jobs that last longer than two hours, the proposal sets a rate of $15 per hour for out-of-court tasks and $20 per hour for courtroom tasks.
If an interpreter has a job that takes four hours, Boido said, he or she would essentially get double the pay under the new system. But very few interpreter tasks last longer than two hours, she said, so the practical raise in many case is little or nothing.
Dew Kaneshiro, project director for the judiciary's Office on Equality and Access to the Courts, said the intent is to see that interpreters are paid for precisely the work that's done.
"I don't think that's unrealistic, and I don't think it's unfair to pay them for the time they actually worked," Kaneshiro said.
The committee will make its recommendation to judiciary administration, which will make the final decision.
Reach Vicki Viotti at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8053.