Legal Education Institute launches court interpreter program
Public Relations - Published: June 30, 2008

The Widener University Legal Education Institute will launch a court interpreter program this fall, an effort that is hoped to bolster access to the courts in an increasingly diverse age.

The program, located on Widener’s Delaware campus, will be open to 25 students and will focus on Spanish-English interpretation. Classes will be held on weekends and last approximately eight weeks, beginning in September.

Students will receive certificates of completion for their attendance. The program is designed to enhance the skills tested in state-administered court interpreter exams. States are increasingly requiring that court interpreters be certified through their exams before they are allowed to work in courtrooms.

“We examined the landscape for court interpreters and determined there was a significant need for a program like this,” said Peggy O’Neill, Esq., special projects coordinator at Widener’s Legal Education Institute. “First, as the population diversifies, the courts on a regular basis need the assistance of interpreters to ensure the due process rights of defendants and litigants. Second, pass rates on the state-administered certification exams could be boosted by the additional training we will offer.”

“This is Widener’s way of providing a service to the courts and the public in the administration of justice,” Widener University Associate Provost and Law Dean Linda L. Ammons said. “With society’s rapidly changing demographics, court interpreters who are well trained are critical.”

The Legal Education Institute, located on the grounds of Widener’s Delaware campus, offers an extensive selection of courses designed to prepare students for nonlawyer legal careers, such as American Bar Association-approved paralegal professionals and legal nurse consultants. Taken together, the school of law, the campus’ National Judicial College affiliation and the institute make up what is known as the Widener Law Center, overseen by Ammons.

O’Neill said the court interpreter program faculty will all be federal- or state-certified instructors and will help the school determine the actual length of the program, although she estimates it will
go about eight weekends. Students may elect to study each weekend, or pick and choose the classes they attend. Cost will be $325 for each weekend, with a discount available to students who elect the full course of study.

Curriculum will consist of things like court terminology, courtroom protocol, ethics, court structures in various states – particularly Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland – and simultaneous and consecutive legal interpretation, as well as sight translation, which are all part of the state-administered certification exams. The program will include a language laboratory system that allows students to practice vocal interpretation.

“We want this program to be a resource for the community,” said Eileen Grena, assistant dean and director of the Legal Education Institute at Widener. “Language barriers should never interfere with the rights of people who seek justice from the courts.”

For more information about the program, including how to register, contact O’Neill at 302.477.2007 or email