West Virginia Judiciary

Access to Justice

Sign Language

The Americans with Disabilities Act and West Virginia state law requires sign language interpreters to be provided in court proceedings for anyone who cannot readily understand or verbally communicate the English language as a result of his or her being deaf, a deaf mute, or having any other hearing impairment, in any case before any court or grand jury.

Mission Statement:

Discrimination on the basis of disability is prohibited in West Virginia state courts.  West Virginia state courts are to provide sign language interpreters, in criminal or civil settings, for a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, including deaf or hard of hearing parents of a minor child who is hearing, who is a party, witness, or juror in any court proceedings in accordance with state law. Interpreters are to be provided at no cost to the user, regardless of his or her ability or perceived ability to pay, as meaningful access to the courts is the right of all citizens.

WHO IS PROVIDED AN INTERPRETER

Accommodating those with disabilities to ensure equal access to justice is required under both federal and state law.  West Virginia state law provides for the right to an interpreter for a complainant, defendant, witness, juror, or parent of a minor child, who cannot readily understand or verbally communicate the English language as a result of his or her being deaf, a deaf mute, or having any other hearing impairment, in any case before any court or grand jury.  An interpreter is arranged for each party in a case who is deaf or hard of hearing or for the deaf or hard of hearing parent of a minor child who is a party to a case.
Use of a sign language interpreter is appropriate at every state of the proceeding at which a person would be entitled to representation by an attorney.  A waiver of the right to counsel does not constitute as a waiver of the right to an interpreter. 
State laws governing the use of interpreters for the deaf and hard of hearing are found under WV Code § 5-14A-1, et seq.  Specific West Virginia state law that requires interpreters to be provided for the deaf, hard of hearing, and otherwise hearing impaired in state courts is found in the Code at § 57-5-7.

Sign Language Interpreters

The Administrative Director of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia shall prescribe, determine, and certify the qualifications of persons who may serve as certified interpreters in courts of this state in proceedings involving the hearing impaired.  State law defines a qualified interpreter as one certified by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), or Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), or in the event an interpreter so certified is not available, an interpreter whose qualifications are otherwise determined.  For state courts, interpreters may be qualified by (being approved by the chief of services for the deaf and hearing impaired of West Virginia of the West Virginia division of vocational rehabilitation), or the West Virginia registry of interpreters for the deaf  or otherwise deemed qualified by the director by having attained qualification through education, training and experience.
The Administrative Office of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia accesses a list of certified interpreters registered with the West Virginia Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.  Only those interpreters who are registered with West Virginia Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and who have certification identified as NIC, NIC Advance, NAD, RID or VQAS (Level 2 or above) may provide interpreting services in the court system.

Courts must work closely with interpreters, parties, and witnesses to determine effective communication methods.


WHAT TO DO IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW REQUIRES AN INTERPRETER

Every deaf person whose appearance in any proceeding entitles him or her to an interpreter shall notify the court of his or her desire for an interpreter one week prior to any appearance.  The initial request for a sign language interpreter is sufficient for the duration of the proceedings.  In the event the services of a sign language interpreter cannot be arranged for the court proceedings, it will be necessary to continue the hearing to such time that an interpreter can be confirmed.
Anyone who needs a sign language interpreter should submit a Request for Sign Language Interpreter for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing, which is available at each county clerk’s office. Failure to complete this form does not dismiss the right to an interpreter, but the local court must be made aware of the need for an interpreter so that one can be arranged for the proceeding.  

Hard of Hearing

The The Education, Training, and Access to Justice Division can provide a device call Pocket Talkers to those who are hard of hearing.  The device is connected to headphones and simply amplifies the voices and sounds of the courtroom for the individual in need.

If you need sign language services in West Virginia Courts, call the Division of Education, Training, and Access to Justice at 304-558-0145.