In 1999 the Ohio Commission on Racial Fairness, chaired by the Honorable Ronald B. Adrine, (now our Presiding Judge) joint initiatives and presented the Commission with the following mandate:“...to identify racial bias where it exists and propose methods for eliminating it from the legal profession and the justice system." This will include gathering information about the perception and reality of disparate treatment towards African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian-Americans, and recommending methods of addressing and eliminating those perceptions and realities. When the Commission began its study, just over 500,000 Ohio residents did not use English as their primary language. In the 2000 Census, Ohio's Latino/Hispanic population alone had grown to 1.9 percent of the total state population. The percentage may seem rather small, but it translates to 217,123 Ohioans who at some point may have dealings with the legal system. The knowledge of the increasing number of individuals who may not be fully conversant in english caused the Commission to express concern regarding interpreter services in the courts.
In 2003 the Cleveland Municipal Court was the first court in the State of Ohio to hire full time Spanish speaking interpreters ( since Spanish is the predominant language in 80 to 90 percent of cases in which an interpreter is needed in Ohio). The interpreters provide their services to defendants charged with misdemeanors, traffic offenses and other court proceedings as needed. They interpret for driving privileges hearings; small claims court cases, wedding ceremonies, probation department referrals, psychiatric evaluations and matters in the Clerk’s office. The Court will not allow a defendant to have a friend or relative interpret for him in court proceedings, due to conflict of interest. The Court also provides interpreters for other languages, including American Sign Language, upon request.