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Colorado Supreme Court swears in ASL interpreters and captioners

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DENVER (March 21, 2023) — Sixteen court-qualified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and real-time captioners were sworn in during a special ceremony at the Colorado Supreme Court on Feb. 24. Justice Monica M. Márquez presided over the ceremony, which will allow interpreters and captioners to provide services in future court proceedings without having to be sworn in each time.

“Access to justice is essential to achieve the commission’s goal of a barrier free Colorado. Each of you makes this happen when you provide effective communication access,” said lead ASL/English interpreter Christine Pendley from the Colorado Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind. “The Colorado Judicial Branch needs skilled interpreters and captioners such as yourselves to ensure that deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind residents have access to justice in our state. Judges, judicial staff, attorneys, managing court interpreters and others rely on the unique skills and expertise you possess to meet communication needs.”

The Legal Auxiliary Services program provides qualified interpreters and captioners for all state court-related proceedings (including mediation and evaluations), jury duty, pretrial services and probation, and court-ordered treatment or classes. The program, which was established in 2006, makes all communication access arrangements for Colorado State Court proceedings, making it the only one of its kind in the United States. 

The first group swearing-in ceremony for legal designation in Colorado was held in 2015, with Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy Rice presiding. Colorado now has 41 court-qualified interpreters and nine court-qualified captioners. The interpreters are certified to provide ASL/English interpretation, and the captioners are certified to provide Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) services. 

"Typically the only happy reason people come to a courtroom is to be married or finalize an adoption,” said Justice Márquez. “In most other situations, people are scared or concerned. Having these newly sworn-in members of the court who can make sure the deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind community can fully participate in court is so important."

Legal Auxiliary Services also makes lists of court-qualified providers available to law enforcement and prosecutors, who are required to utilize legal-credentialed providers for effective communication during arrests and questioning of victims and witnesses. The program provides communication access services for state-level administrative, commission, agency or licensing hearings. People who wish to observe state court proceedings are also covered when resources are available. 

Interpreters and captioners must hold a Colorado Status I or II Court/Legal designation to work in state court proceedings. See definitions below for an explanation of these designations. The referral list of providers and other information about the program is available on the Legal Auxiliary Services program webpage.  

The following interpreters and captioners were sworn in during the Feb. 24 ceremony.

ASL/English interpreters

  • Calene Lauren Carrano, Denver
  • Kevin M. Harrer, Colorado Springs
  • Kali Janda, Edgewater
  • Sandi E Johnson, Loveland
  • Chelsea P. Lee, Morrison
  • Karen McCullah, Wellington
  • Marcie Murphy, Colorado Springs
  • Sharon Ploeger, Evergreen
  • Mah-rya Proper, Denver      
  • Shannon Townsend, Windsor
  • Christine Witczak, Colorado Springs

CART captioners

  • Amy Alvarez, Colorado Springs
  • Matthew John Aufdemberge, Aurora
  • Alicia M. Berg, Highlands Ranch
  • Brandice Edwards, Aurora
  • James Sandoval, Arvada

ASL/English interpreter: A trained professional who facilitates communication between parties by transmitting spoken or written English into sign language and sign language into spoken English. 

Certified Deaf Interpreters or Deaf Interpreters are trained professionals who are themselves deaf or hard of hearing and are recommended for a broad range of assignments where their specialized training and/or experience would be beneficial. These interpreters work in teams with Certified Hearing Interpreters.

  • A Court/Legal Status I designation reflects that the hearing interpreter has a specialized court/legal certification or credential, such as the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Specialist Certificate: Legal or Board for Evaluation of Interpreters Court Interpreter certificate.
  • A Court/Legal Status II designation reflects that the interpreter has completed at least 100 hours of training and hands-on mentoring in court and legal settings. All interpreters must complete a background check. 

Realtime captioner: A trained professional who provides realtime captioning from spoken English to text for communication access. The text appears on a computer or display screen. Captioners also provide environmental cues like phones ringing, shouting, coughing, etc.

  • A Court/Legal Status I designation reflects that the captioner has a Certified Realtime Captioner designation.
  • A Court/Legal Status II designation reflects that the captioner has met certain educational, experience, and accuracy requirements. Status I and II captioners must successfully complete six hands-on assignments in the Colorado State Courts under the supervision of a credentialed court/legal captioner, complete a LAS orientation, and complete a background check. 

The Colorado Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind (CCDHHDB) connects people with assistance, resources, and supports effective communication for everyone. More than 755,569 Coloradans are deaf or hard of hearing and approximately 1,200 Coloradans are DeafBlind. Each year, about 200 babies are born in Colorado with hearing differences. (CCDHHDB) strives to be agents of change for a sustainable statewide network of resources, dedicated to cultural and linguistic equality.

Media contact:
Heather Wilcox
Communications Specialist