Neil Rockind in the Detroit Free Press

A voice for others: Michigan courts consider whether to certify interpreters


The Michigan courts are studying whether court language interpreters should be certified — no training is required now — to ensure good communication for people in court who speak no English or struggle with it. The effort, one of many under way regarding interpreter services, comes as a State Bar of Michigan task force report found that such services are underfunded and “inconsistently applied across courts, in many cases in violation of constitutional and federal requirements.” Failure to address the issue threatens
federal funding, it states.
“Every stage of the legal process, from the time police stop a person to the time they walk oust of the courthouse, is important,” said attorney Neil Rockind, who is defending Khalil Eweis of Rochester Hills on a drunken-driving charge and arguing that Eweis, a Jordanian who speaks Arabic and little English, wasn’t advised of his rights in a language he understands.

Rockind said the Troy officer who stopped Eweis noticed an immediate language

barrier but didn’t ask for an interpreter or contact a colleague who spoke Arabic. The officer read Eweis’ preliminary and chemical breath test rights, but an
interpreter wasn’t brought in until the booking process, Rockind said. A district
court judge denied a motion to dismiss the breath test results. This month, Rockind filed a challenge to the ruling in Oakland County Circuit Court.

“If the system is willing to arrest people, to prosecute them and convict them of misdemeanors and felonies and incarcerate them … at a minimum, people
should understand what is being said to them at all times,” he said.


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