Meet Court Interpreter Robert Medrano
"In America, state justice systems are required to ensure that all people, regardless of their primary language, have equal access to a fair trial ....a person's guilt or innocence cannot be fairly determined at a trial that is incomprehensible to the defendant." Araceli Martínez-Olguín. Staff Attorney, Legal Aid Society.
In November of 2010, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that criminal defendants with limited or no English proficiency have a constitutional right to court interpreters in criminal trials. As a practical matter, municipal courts across Georgia also extend this right to defendants in civil cases as well, and some of those court systems provide interpreters free of charge.
The availability of free interpreters varies throughout South Georgia but the Chatham County Recorder's Court will provide one if the defendant requests it.
Robert Medrano is a certified court interpreter paid by the Pooler Municipal Court to assist Spanish-speaking defendants when they appear there before Judge Rick Gnann.
“The Pooler court pays me to interpret for Latinos who appear in court here, “ Medrano said. “There is no need for any one to pay extra money for an interpreter when they come into our courtroom. I am paid by the City of Pooler to handle interpreting for all kinds of cases- traffic, criminal, etc.”
Medrano pointed out the importance of using a certified court interpreter whose skills and training qualify them to deal with the technical aspects of this important job.
“This is important because court interpreting is about much more than just being able to interpret another language,” Medrano said. “There are court rules and procedures that must be strictly adhered to. My role is to be an accurate conduit of all the information that is passed between the defendant and the court officials. An interpreter is not a lawyer and I am not allowed to give any legal advice. I went to five weekend classes on Saturdays in Atlanta to get my Georgia certification.”
Medrano was born in Queens, New York but his parents and many of his relatives are from San Salvador, El Salvador. In addition to saving money, he pointed out another reason why defendants in Pooler's court can benefit from his free interpreting services.
“Our court system works this way- the police officer's cases get called first, the attorney's cases get called second, then my cases get called third. After that, it's all done alphabetically,” Medrano said. “So there's a good chance your case will be heard sooner and you won't have to wait all afternoon, if you let me interpret for you. Just show up in court on the date of your summons and if you are on the docket, come see me and I'll sign you up.”
Medrano has been interpreting for the Pooler Court for the past two years and before that he interpreted for the California Courts system for several years as well.
“One thing that has always bothered me is seeing my fellow Latinos being taken advantage of,” Medrano said. “The Pooler Courts pay me $60 to interpret for a Latino client. To me that is a fair payment and I certainly think that anyone who provides this service to help someone in court should be paid fairly. But what bothers me is when I hear about people who are charged $150 or even $200 for an interpreter's services. In my opinion, those people are being robbed.”
Because of his experiences in court, Medrano offers the following common sense advice to Latinos: If you have a court summons, show up on your court date. If you skip it, you'll just get in more trouble. If you need to get bailed out of jail, make sure you have someone with you who understands the documents you are signing. If you can't afford a lawyer, the court will provide you with a public defender who will defend you free of charge.
Robert Medrano is also a notary public and is hoping to establish his own bail bonding business later this year. He and his wife also own a cleaning business and attend the Savannah Baptist Temple. To contact him, please call 912-398-3012 or email him at email@example.com