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Amended Statute Provides for Necessary Court Interpreters to be Provided at Public Expense


MADISON Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen today issued a formal opinion concluding that Wis. Stat. 885.38(3) which provides for in-court interpreters when deemed necessary for the hearing impaired or those of limited English proficiency requires that the public bear the expense of necessary interpreter services for all litigants regardless of their ability to pay. The statute was amended in 2007 and replaced a law that had previously provided for provision of interpreters at public expense only in criminal cases where the defendant was indigent.


Van Hollen found that the statutory amendment, which had been requested by the state courts, clearly established the legislatures intent to provide in-court interpretation services at public expense in all cases where the court has deemed such services to be necessary, and that no other state statute provided authority for shifting interpreter costs to litigants. Van Hollen noted that his interpretation of the statutory requirements is consistent with federal civil rights law prohibiting discriminatory treatment based upon disability or national origin.


The opinion was requested by Director of State Courts A. John Voelker. A copy of the original request and Attorney General Van Hollens formal opinion can be found below: