Remote interpreter service helps in legal proceedings for courts in Western Wisconsin

Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 9:42 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Chippewa County Circuit Court Judge Steven Gibbs started serving on the bench 7 years ago.

It was a time he said there was not much diversity, but that changed over time. And with came some challenges in his courtroom.

“We don’t have a lot of certified interpreters in this area,” said Judge Gibbs.

Finding interpreters for non-English speakers and sign language users who find themselves in court can be difficult in Western Wisconsin.

Judge Gibbs said the ones that could be found are in Minnesota, Eastern Wisconsin and the Chicago area. He said that is why the Clerk of Courts turned to the remote interpreters with the Southern Wisconsin Interpreting and Translations Services. It is known as SWITS for short.

It cutdown on travel expenses to summon an interpreter for a brief court proceeding, saving tax payers thousands of dollars.

“Having the video service with with is just a blessing to everybody involved,” said Judge Gibbs.

SWITS founder Saul Arteaga said the company was founded in 2002 and only got into remote work in recent years.

“The reality is that with video. COVID taught us all how to utilize or maximize the use of technology. That’s the job, to be able to interpret remotely,” said Arteaga.

He is a bi-lingual man himself from Peru and having learned English as second language. He said it will take a lot of work to train and hire interpreters to fill in the need for regions like the Chippewa Valley.

“It’s very hard to learn another language as if its your native language. For interpreting, you need memory retention. You need to be able to analyze languages and be able to render it in a way that makes sense,” said Arteaga.

Judge Gibbs said it is all necessary for swift justice.

“We have to make it so the individual who’s here understands what’s going on, is able to ask questions, is able to communicate with his attorney and understand the process that we’re going through,” said Judge Gibbs.

Arteaga said however it is ideal to have in-person interpreters if the proceedings are long.

SWITS offers a training program for interpreters, here is the link for anyone who is interested.