Advocacy for Interpreters and Translators Working in Court and Legal Settings

According to the American Community Survey Report of 2011, 22.4 percent of the U.S. population spoke English “not well” or “not at all.” Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 13166, and numerous state laws and regulations require language services to ensure meaningful access to programs and activities for these individuals. Providing this assistance in judicial settings is particularly important for victims, defendants, civil litigants, and witnesses; and requires the services of well-trained and highly skilled professional interpreters and translators.

The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) was founded in 1978 in order to build professionalism among interpreters and translators working in the courts and other legal and law-enforcement settings, to support language access to the courts, and to educate the public about the need for qualified and well-trained professional judiciary interpreters and translators.

In furtherance of its purpose, NAJIT has spoken out on many issues, including the following:

April 15, 2024 – NAJIT Advocates for Enhanced Court Interpreter Services in South Carolina: NAJIT is committed to promoting professional standards and equitable access to justice for individuals with limited English proficiency. NAJIT’s Advocacy Committee wrote to Chief Justice Beatty of South Carolina to outline recommendations for enhancing court interpreter services, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing certified interpreters, revising policies to ensure equitable treatment, and adopting best practices to uphold language access and equitable justice for all. Read the letter here

April 1, 2024 – NAJIT Leads the Charge in Elevating Court Interpreting Standards: NAJIT is leading the charge in advocating for higher standards and best practices. NAJIT wrote to the Massachusetts Director of Language Access & Court Records Department to share suggestions for enhancing their interpreter program. Recognizing their commitment to excellence NAJIT presented a series of strategic recommendations aimed at further enhancing their program. Read the letter here

February 15: NAJIT & ATA Stand United Again for New Mexico Court Interpreters! Hot on the heels of our recent joint effort, the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) and the American Translators Association (ATA) are back at it, doubling down on our support for New Mexico court interpreters!

Check out our latest letter addressed to Director Arthur W. Pepin of the New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts. We’re pushing for better compensation and working conditions, ensuring that these crucial professionals get the recognition and fair treatment they deserve.

January 2024: NAJIT Stands in Support of NJ Bill for Language Access (S.2459/A.3837The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) proudly supports Bill S.2459/A.3837, which is currently under consideration by the New Jersey State Assembly. The proposed amendments aim to mandate state agencies to translate “vital documents” into the seven languages spoken by most Limited English Proficiency (LEP) individuals in New Jersey. Additionally, the bill calls for live interpreting services for all languages, whether in person or remotely; these provisions signify a significant stride towards providing meaningful access to state services and benefits for LEP individuals in the state. Read NAJIT’s statement here.

**UPDATE**  JANUARY 12: Governor Phil Murphy signed this bill into law, ensuring that vital documents and services are accessible in the seven most common languages spoken in New Jersey. This achievement marks a significant milestone in promoting inclusivity and language accessibility, showcasing the impact of collaborative advocacy in driving meaningful legislative change. READ MORE

January 2024: Advocating for improved compensation and working conditions in Minnesota! The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) and the American Translators Association (ATA) extended their unwavering support to the dedicated court interpreters working in Minnesota who are advocating for improved compensation and working conditions.  Read the entire letter here.

October 2023: Advocating for Fair Compensation! NAJIT’s Board of Directors has penned a crucial letter addressing recent changes in interpreter payment policies at the King County District Court. We’re committed to ensuring equitable access to justice for communities with limited English proficiency. Join us in urging the court to reconsider and rectify these changes, ensuring fair compensation for interpreters and maintaining access to justice. Together, we can make a difference! 

September 2023: NAJIT wrote to two California Senators, Senator Brian Jones and Senator Anthony J. Portantino, expressing opposition to AB 1032, a bill that could have negative repercussions for court interpreters in California and the individuals within the justice system who depend on language assistance due to limited English proficiency. NAJIT joined in the support of the Coalition of Working California Court Interpreters, the American Translators Association, and indigenous Mayan-language relay and direct interpreters in their opposition to AB 1032. Click the icon on the right to read the letter.

August 2023NAJIT responds to the invitation from the Indiana Language Access Coordinator’s Office seeking public comments on proposed revisions to court interpreter policies: As advocates for excellence and recognition in our field, we’ve noted some concerns and made strategic recommendations to ensure fair qualifications and payment standards. Read our letter here. We are always on the lookout for opportunities like this to make a positive impact on the future of court interpreting!

June 2023NAJIT has just responded to the invitation from the Minnesota Courts Administrator’s Office seeking public comments on proposed revisions to court interpreter policies. As advocates for excellence and recognition in our field, we’ve expressed our concerns and recommendations to ensure fair qualifications and payment standards. Read our letter here. Together, let’s make a positive impact on the future of court interpreting! 

June 2023: The NAJIT Board of Directors continues our commitment to support our professionals by helping them advocate for working conditions and compensation commensurate with the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) required for this vital job. We were happy to once again support the efforts of our state interpreter colleagues from Nebraska.

May 2023The Public Defender’s Office of the Hudson region of NJ approached NAJIT about an urgent matter related to the application of remote interpreting during the State versus Juracan-Juracan jury trial. In a brief filed to the NJ Supreme Court, attorneys argued and received a stay of the trial, pending the motion based on matters of court interpretation.

NAJIT joined the ACLU and collaborated on a brief with the American Translators Association to inform the court based on our collective specialized expertise. The NAJIT Board of Directors is proud that our association continues to be the sought-after authority in all matters related to judiciary interpreting. We are happy to answer that call and thank the incredible NAJIT members who made up the project team. Please read the entire brief and stay tuned for future developments on this potentially precedence-setting case.

May 2023: In a recent letter sent to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), NAJIT offered invaluable insights and recommendations to enhance language access within the immigration courts. NAJIT’s extensive expertise and recommendations aim to ensure equal access and justice for limited English-proficient individuals within the immigration court system. By implementing these suggestions, EOIR can significantly enhance language access and uphold the promises of equal opportunity for all. Stay tuned for more exciting updates from NAJIT as we continue to champion the cause of language professionals nationwide. 

April 2023: NAJIT board member and Secretary, Laura McGilvra, was invited to participate and represent NAJIT in Multi Languages Corporation’s: “Code of Ethics: The Language of Professionalism and Integrity Virtual Panel”. Participation in events that help influence the profession is a high priority for the Board of Directors. You can access the full video of the panel here.

Prior NAJIT Chair, Janis Palma also participated in this webinar series representing NAJIT in March. Here is a link to that video.

November 2022: The NAJIT Board of Directors continues our commitment to support our professionals by helping them advocate for working conditions and compensation commensurate with the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) required for this vital job. We were happy to support the efforts of our federal interpreter colleagues as well as our state interpreter colleagues from Nebraska with the letters linked below.

Much more work needs to be done but as recent developments such as the pay increase in North Carolina and the one recently announced by Nevada have shown, supporting your association helps NAJIT leverage our standing among all stakeholders to help effect change. This is underscored by the second response from the American Bar Association. Your support makes a difference.

The board also wishes to thank the Advocacy committee once again under the leadership of Sandro Tomasi and Robert Joe Lee for their great work! We are always stronger together.

September 27, 2022 – NAJIT continued its advocacy efforts with a letter to the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts promoting commensurate compensation for interpreters written by the NAJIT Advocacy Committee. 

September 27, 2022 – NAJIT provided a letter of comment to the ABA, last October, and subsequently provided additional material as a follow-up to the ABA’s response to our original comments regarding ABA500. We will continue to leverage NAJIT’s position and reputation to tirelessly support our members and our professions.

September 20, 2022 – NAJIT continued its advocacy efforts with a letter to the Nevada Court Administration Office of the Eighth Judicial District Court promoting commensurate compensation for interpreters written by the NAJIT Advocacy Committee.

October 26, 2021 The NAJIT Board wrote a letter to three representatives of the ABA and the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility in response to the recently published Formal Opinion 500, Language Access in the Client-Lawyer Relationship.  NAJIT urged the ABA and the Committee to seriously consider revisiting the Opinion and give professional interpreters and translators a seat at the table as was done with the Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigence Defense project, “Laying the Path”, which resulted in the seminal document, “ABA Standards for Language Access in Courts”. The letters were sent to Lynda Shely, Esq., Committee Chair, Mary McDermott, Esq., Lead Senior Counsel, Center For Professional Responsibility, and Reginald M. Turner, Esq., President, American Bar Association. 

August 27, 2021 NAJIT was proud to co-sign a letter to President Biden authored by CCHI expressing “deep concern about the humanitarian crisis that is currently unfolding.” 

July 26, 2021 NAJIT submitted a request for the Honorable Supreme Court of California to hear the appeal in the case of Edward Kim, Ginnie Cho, Seung K. Kang and GNE Property Management, Inc., A California Corporation v. Helen Lee and Young Hee Kim, and carefully consider the critical issue of using uncertified and unqualified interpreters in lieu of certified and qualified interpreters, and the injurious consequences of that practice on persons coming before the state courts with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), or who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

June 21, 2021 The NAJIT Board submitted comments to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts on amendments being considered to the regulations for court interpreters that synthesize the regulations with the Language Access Plan for the Unified Judicial System.


May 2021 – The NAJIT Board joined numerous other associations in co-signing a letter drafted by Red T in support of interpreters in Afghanistan. This letter was directed to the NATO Secretary General.

April 2021 – The NAJIT Board joined numerous other associations in co-signing a letter drafted by Red T in support of interpreters in Afghanistan. This letter was sent to the US Secretary of State.

March 11, 2021 – The NAJIT Advocacy committee wrote a letter to the Supervising Judge at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, in response to the Protocols and Guidelines for Conducting In-Person Civil Jury Trials in City Hall During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

March 8, 2021 – The NAJIT Board has written a letter urging all public health officials as well as court administrators who employ and contract with interpreters to explicitly include on-site court interpreters among the listed groups of personnel for Phase 1 vaccinations.

March 5, 2021 A recent news report identified a subcontractor working as a translator for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in California who was arrested for disclosing confidential information about an ongoing DEA investigation. In response to this report, the NAJIT Board of Directors has sent official letters to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the DEA, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California stating our position against the practice of contracting language services through low-bidding companies that employ interpreters and translators who do not have the proper qualifications and experience. 

February 18, 2021 – The NAJIT Board of Directors drafted a statement against reductions in minimum hours for remote interpreting

February 16, 2021 – The NAJIT Board of Directors has drafted and submitted comments in response to the California Judicial Council’s Recommended Guidelines and Minimum Specifications for Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) for Spoken Language Interpreted Events. These guidelines are proposed as both a current and post-pandemic guideline for providing remote interpreting for court proceedings. 

February 10, 2021 The NAJIT Board of Directors sent a call to action to courts regarding the importance of interpreter safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

December 8, 2020 The NAJIT Board of Directors wrote a letter to clarify some misconceptions that may exist regarding the federal court interpreter certification. 

October 30, 2020 The Kansas Supreme Court opened proposed Rule 1705 for public comment. The proposed rule would require court interpreters to undergo an orientation in order to be eligible to interpret in the Kansas State Courts. The NAJIT Board of Directors submitted a letter in favor of the orientation program, but only as a first step in what should be a truly robust process of judiciary interpreters’ competency assessment. NAJIT argued in favor of a certification program in Kansas in which the proposed orientation is only one element. The NAJIT Advocacy Committee also submitted a separate letter to the Kansas Supreme Court, in which they congratulated the Court for this proposed step towards a “comprehensive language access program,” but also advised that orientation alone cannot ensure the delivery of professional court interpreting services in accordance with the Kansas Code of Professional Responsibility for Court Interpreters. Read the comments submitted by the Board of Directors here. Read the comments submitted by the advocacy committee here.

May 18, 2020 Protecting Civil Rights While Responding to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). A statement by Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric S. Dreiband.

April 29, 2020 Joint letter from the Advocacy and Bench and Bar Committees regarding proper protocols for remote interpreting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

June 26,2019 NAJIT writes a letter to California legislators supporting an exemption for freelance interpreters be added to bill AB5.

May 14,2019 NAJIT writes letter to Texas legislators in opposition of proposed Bills SB 2176 and HB 3627.

May 13,2019 Justice department and Louisiana supreme court reach agreement to provide language assistance for individuals not proficient in English.

May 1,2019After ten years, the newly revised NAJIT Position Paper on Transcription/Translation is now available. The position paper is for the benefit of both the users of transcription/translation services and the practitioners who provide them, addressing topics such as the qualifications required to do this type of specialized work, quality assurance, and the role of the transcription/translation expert as expert witness. A useful tool that examines this hybrid specialization from both the theoretical and practical perspectives. Review all of NAJIT’s position papers here.

March 15, 2019Information on language access and Title VI provided by the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to the Houston Interpreters and Translators Association (HITA) can be found here.

September 14, 2018 – NAJIT quoted in recent article title “Lost in Legal Translation” published by Best Lawyers. Read the entire article here.

July 26, 2018 – NAJIT releases a statement on the perils of subpoenaing an interpreter to testify about the substance of an assignment. Read the statement here.

June 20, 2018 – Executive Director, Rob Cruz, represented NAJIT by addressing the Georgia Commission on Interpreters on June 20th, 2018 as part of their continuing efforts to promote high standards regarding language access. Mr. Cruz spoke on key aspects of the profession such as attracting more potential interpreters and the importance of continuing education requirements. Click here for more details on the event.

January 23, 2018 – Court voids confession, urges more use of interpreters by law enforcement. Read the full decision of the NJ Appellate Court.

November 6, 2017Two papers from the American Translators Association (ATA). The first, Inaccuracies in Prevailing Wages Rate Determinations for Translators and Interpreters, describes how the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the hourly rate for translators and Interpreters and the negative impact this has on compensation. The second, Language Services Procurement: The Need for the Best Value Approach, describes two approaches used by the federal government to contract for services, and recommends use of the “Best Value Approach” as being more appropriate for language services.

May 15, 2017NAJIT Advocacy Priorities. A resource prepared by our Advocacy Committee and designed by our prior Chair about NAJIT’s advocacy priorities and some important figures regarding our association’s members.

April 24, 2017 – Advocacy 101 for Interpreters and Translators. A resource prepared by NAJIT’s Advocacy Committee on what advocacy is, its importance, and how to advocate for our profession.

February 25, 2017NAJIT Advocacy Day Survey Results

May 2016 – Red T Letter

April 25, 2013Court Interpreter Compensation

May 25, 2012Lost in Translation: NAJIT responds to a New York Times article on the outcome of Taniguchi v. Kan Pacific Saipan.

May 21, 2012Supreme Court of the United States finds for the petitioner in  the case of Kouichi Taniguchi v. Kan Pacific Saipan, Ltd issuing the opinion that interpretation and translation are two distinct professions.

November 2011Amicus CuriaeBrief of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators as Amicus Curiae in support of petitioner in the case of Kouichi Taniguchi v. Kan Pacific Saipan, Ltd.

July 27, 2011Texas Rule Change: Provided comments to proposed rules which would create a second, lower-qualified tier of licensed court interpreters.

July 12, 2011Charlotte, North Carolina Organizations: Written to various organizations in Charlotte in support of their complaint to the Department of Justice regarding the failure of North Carolina to provide qualified court interpreters.

May 19, 2011Athens, TN: Chair Rob Cruz comments on the statement of a judge that he “speak[s] some Spanish and can tell he does a good job.”

December 13, 2010Salt Lake: Written to applaud the editorial stance of the Salt Lake Tribune, and to join it, deploring the intention of the Utah Judicial Council to ignore the plain guidance of the U.S. Department of Justice regarding assistant to LEP persons.

September 16, 2010Assistant Attorney General Perez Letter: Written in support of the guidance letter issues on August 16, 2010 by AAG Thomas Perez.

July 19, 2010Comments on Department of Homeland Security LEP Guidelines: Written to the Judge and staff writer involved in a case where a friend of the defendant was appointed to interpreter in court.

March 23, 2010Tennessee HB 262/SB 63: Collaborated with TAPIT in opposing HB 262/SB 63, which would require that all driving license materials be printed only in English.

December 2, 2009Nashville English-only: Collaborated with the Tennessee Association of Professional Interpreters and Translators (TAPIT) in opposing Nashville’s English-only legislation.

September 24, 2009California State University at Long Beach (CSULB) Interpreter Program: Written to CSULB to urge them to reconsider its decision to discontinue its highly-regarded program in interpreting and translation.

July 13, 2009Kohl S 1329: Written to support Senator Herbert Kohl’s legislation for grants to states to develop and implement court interpreter programs.

June 3, 2009Texas HB 4445: Written to Texas Governor Perry to oppose the creation of a second, less-capable tier of licensed interpreters.

March 1, 2009Relatives Interpreting: Issued a statement deploring the use of a suspect’s brother as an interpreter for his interrogation.

November 22, 2008Unmasking Iraqi Interpreters: Written to Secretary of Defense Gates opposing regulations requiring that interpreters in Iraq work without masks.

September 11, 2008Afghani Interpreters:. Written to Senators Levin and McCain, Chairman and Ranking Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, supporting the extension of special immigrant visas to Afghani interpreters.

July 15, 2008News Release/Camayd/Freixas: Drafted a news release about the ethical issues raised by the statement of Erik Camayd-Freixas.

May 29, 2008Ohio HB 477/SB 260: Written to oppose two companion English-only bills in the Ohio legislature.

March 12, 2008Maryland SB 256: Written in opposition to Maryland SB 225, an ill-conceived reaction to the dismissal of the case involving a Vai-speaking defendant.

June 26, 2007Maryland Vai Case: Collaboration with NAJIT’s Board of Directors and the American Translators Association to produce a joint statement about the failure of a Maryland court to locate a competent interpreter for a Vai-speaking defendant; the case against the defendant was dismissed for lack of timely prosecution because of the delay in finding an interpreter.

June 12, 2007Hawai’i Rules: Response to a request for comment by the Hawai’i Judiciary Public Affairs Office regarding proposed rules governing court interpreters.

April 27, 2007California AB 615: Written in support of AB 615, a bill to improve language services to LEPs in disaster situations.

April 12, 2007Kohl Bill: Written in support of legislation sponsored by Sen. Herbert Kohl regarding services to LEP individuals.

January 2007Virginia Letters:. Worked with a member regarding courts in Virginia that did not use certified interpreters, although required to do so. The committee wrote individually to a large number of state court judges, urging that they comply with Judicial Council rules.