Hendricks County Superior Court Judge David J. Coleman, like many judges in Indiana, has seen a steady increase in the number of people coming into his courtroom who only speak Spanish. “I don’t think we’re alone. Probably every county has seen an increase,” said Judge Coleman.
Last year, Coleman and almost two dozen court staff enrolled in the Workplace Spanish for the Judicial System course sponsored by the Indiana Supreme Court through the Indiana Judicial Center and the Division of State Court Administration. “The teacher, Bob Smith, did an excellent job. It has been very helpful to my staff. When people make an inquiry about the status of a case we can help. Our staff can communicate,” said Judge Coleman.
Staff members who have taken the course now know enough Spanish to be able to help a non-English-speaking litigant about a continuance or a new hearing date. But they also can communicate to the litigants about the availability of qualified interpreters to be present in court during the actual trial.
The courses in Workplace Spanish are paid for by state and grant funds and are offered at no cost to the local employees. This made Judge Coleman’s decision to take the course and encourage his staff to do so an easy one, because his court, like most others, does not have funds available for this sort training.
“Like all counties, we have budget problems, and I don’t think we would have been able to come up with the funding,” he said. He added that he has proposed hiring a full-time interpreter to be shared by county offices.
This has been a very popular and well-attended training program, with more than 645 people completing the course. “Being able to communicate with citizens who need court services is a basic requirement of the judiciary. We are committed to giving employees the necessary tools to meet the growing number of non-English speaking residents,” said Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.
The Workplace Spanish curriculum includes 24 hours of classroom instruction, textbooks and a CD-ROM. The course includes basic topics such as greetings and introductions; dates and times; numbers; telephone reception phrases; eliciting personal information; how to provide directions to other offices; explaining courtroom procedures; referencing court documents; and other content geared toward court employees.
This course is open to any employee in the State of Indiana who directly reports to a judicial officer of a trial court of record or employees of the Clerk’s office assigned to work with the courts. For more information on how to register and find the nearest Ivy Tech campus, go online to: http://courts.IN.gov/center/spanish-course/
Questions about the program may be directed to Michelle Goodman, Staff Attorney, Indiana Judicial Center, at 317-232-1313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.