Federal mandates and a more diverse population have raised demand for interpretation services at the Pima County Superior Court in recent years.
Interpreters provided services more than 11,000 times in 2013, nearly a 30 percent increase from fiscal year 2010-11, according to court data.
“Previously, we were required to provide interpreters for criminal and juvenile matters and now the effort is that we need to provide interpreters in all matters including civil, probate and arbitration and everything else,” said Anne-Marie Braswell, a spokeswoman for the Pima County Superior Court.
The courts increasingly rely on contractors to fill the gap and interpret less common languages such as American Sign Language. In all, the Pima County Superior Court provides translation and interpretation assistance for 29 different languages including Farsi, Dinka and Tagalog.
Last fiscal year, the freelance interpreter budget was about $300,000, a 95 percent jump from the previous year.
Most cases require Spanish language interpretation. Right now, the court has only four full-time Spanish interpreters, one short of full capacity.
“Essentially, we are having to pay for the use of contractors to fulfill the need that that fifth spot would have been able to manage,” Braswell said.
The court approved another full-time Spanish interpreter position and hopes to hire soon.