Woman Becomes First Court-Certified Marshallese Interpreter

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Melisa Laelan to be sworn-in by Supreme Court chief justice

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Yokwe, Feb. 27, 2013) – Melisa Laelan, a Marshall Islander residing in Springdale, Arkansas, will be the first person in the country to be sworn in as a certified Marshallese interpreter. Northwest Arkansas has the largest concentration of Marshall Islanders in the continental United States. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Hannah will administer the oath to Laelan and two other newly-certified state court interpreters Thursday, February 28, at 9:45 a.m.

According to the Supreme Court release, family and guests will join the interpreters and the full court for the swearing-in ceremony following oral arguments. The ceremony will be streamed live on the Court's website.

After the ceremony, all attendees are invited to the reception in the lobby outside the AOC in the Justice Building. Local Marshallese will perform a traditional Marshallese dance.

Background from the Supreme Court of Arkanasa:

To become an interpreter in Arkansas state courts, applicants must complete an extensive certification process, which includes background checks, successful completion of the Candidate Assessment Exam, orientation, and training. It is not enough just to speak another language. Candidates must learn legal language as well as adhere to a strict code of ethics.

In 2012, Court Interpreter Services responded to more than 7500 requests for interpreting in seventeen languages. In January, the AOC adopted a revised Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Plan to address the growing need for language access in the state courts. The plan provides details on the LEP population of Arkansas, the services available through the AOC and the requirements for interpreter certification. The LEP Plan can be found on the Judiciary website.

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