The Supreme Court of Ohio certified a dozen court interpreters on Jan. 19 at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center. It's part of the Court's commitment to language access in Ohio's judicial system.
Rana Raad was one interpreter honored on Thursday. She said getting certified as an Arabic court interpreter is a dream come true.
Though Arabic is her native language, Raad taught English as a second language in Syria before immigrating to the United States in 2000.
"It's very hard, believe me, for people that don't understand English, it's very hard for them to know what's going on around them, so that motivated me a lot after volunteering all those hours to become an official interpreter," Raad said.
Raad is the Court's first Arabic interpreter. She and the other certified interpreters had to pass an oral and written test as well as attend an orientation training on interpreting and addressing ethics, legal procedures and terminology, and other related topics.
Ohio courts handle more than 25,000 cases per year that require a court interpreter, and the certification ensures that interpreters working in the courts meet the minimum standards of language fluency and makes it possible for courts to provide the most qualified interpreters.
"Everyone here in the United States, they have the right to understand what's going on around them, especially in the legal system," Raad said. "Interpreting is very interesting and every day, believe me, I do a lot of search for new words and new meanings in every single court in the United States."
The Supreme Court began certifying court interpreters in 2010, when the Court adopted rules regarding the certification of foreign language and sign language interpreters used by Ohio courts.
In 2013, Ohio courts will be required to use a certified foreign language or sign language interpreter, when available, to ensure the "meaningful participation" of deaf and limited English proficient individuals in court proceedings.
Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor told the new certified interpreters that every citizen should be able to fully understand court procedures to truly have their day in court.
"With today's ceremony we are taking another step to ensure that all Ohioans have equal access to justice under the law," Chief Justice O'Connor said.
The Court has currently tested Spanish, Arabic, French, Russian, Mandarin, and American Sign Language and will soon add Korean and Somali.