Imagine being in a courtroom and not being able to understand what is being said. That's the important role interpreters play and Las Vegas courtrooms are in need of them.
Some courts may use language lines if they can't find an interpreter and Clark County District Court reports assistance with more than 90 foreign languages, but there is a need for more people who can translate.
Las Vegas may be a city where you can hear multiple languages on the Strip, in the suburbs and even at court.
"You have to come prepared for whatever is going to show up," said interpreter Consuelo Cisneros.
She has been a court certified Spanish interpreter for 16 years in Clark County.
"I decided to look into it because of the flexible schedule," Cisneros said. "I could tend to my children and work in interpreting and it's been very fulfilling. Now I do it because I love the job."
But Cisneros has moved toward the private sector translating for businesses and conferences because she says the pay is better than the $40 an hour she'd earn in court which offers more unreliable freelance hours.
"It does present a challenge to earn a living exclusively as a court interpreter," she said.
And there aren't enough interpreters. Nevada Judiciary has set up workshops to reduce the shortage.
Currently there are 88 certified Spanish interpreters listed in the state of Nevada and another four who speak other languages.
They've all gone through what Cisneros describes as thorough testing.
There are 10 interpreters for 13 other languages statewide who are described as "registered" since the same testing in not available for those languages.
In Clark County alone, there were nearly 34,000 reported requests for interpreters in the past year.
"I think where the link is weak is with institutions to identify that they have that need," said Sylvia Lazos, who is a professor at UNLV's Boyd School of Law.
Nevada courts point out that although the U.S. Constitution does not specifically guarantee the right to translation in court, the courts have interpreted that the right is guaranteed through the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.
"We want folks to have the same kinds of outcomes as much as possible regardless of who they are, what their last name is or what their zip code is," Lazos said.
She believes that is not always happening and insists a court proceeding should be delayed if an interpreter is not available.
"It's so fundamental to the system of justice that it's something that we need to pay attention to," she said.
"For people who are limited English, it is, it is one of the awesome guarantees of the American justice system," said Cisneros.
The I-Team started looking into this issue after hearing of concerns about some family court cases moving forward without interpreters, but Clark County District Court spokeswoman Mary Price issued the following statement: "The court has received no indication or complaint that hearings requiring the use of interpreters are proceeding without interpreter assistance; and, the court encourages anyone who has experienced otherwise to report the issue to court administration."
Clark County District Court pays full time interpreters $47,611.20 to $73,777.60/annually and part time interpreters $25/hr. Vendors who speak Spanish can earn $40/hr with a two-hour minimum and those who speak languages other than Spanish can earn $50/hr. with a two-hour minimum.
There are some upcoming workshops. Click here for additional information.
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