ATA at the California Federation of Interpreters 2016 Conference

The 2016 California Federation of Interpreters (CFI) Conference was held on October 7–9 in Los Angeles, California. CFI is a large and highly visible court interpreter association in California. It’s actually both a professional organization and a union. CFI negotiates with the California state courts on behalf of its members, many of whom are staff interpreters, and advocates for per diem interpreters. According to its website (www.calinterpreters.org), CFI’s mission includes:

  • Uniting interpreters who believe strongly that the recognition and advancement of the profession can only be achieved by providing quality oral interpreting, sign language, and written translations.
  • Uniting interpreters who know that their role is vital to the justice system. Reliable and impartial interpreting and translation are important to ensure due process of the law and adequate representation by counsel for linguistic minorities and the hearing impaired.
  • Advancing and upholding the profession of court interpreting and translating.
  • Promoting high standards of proficiency by developing and implementing continuing education activities and supporting those of other interpreter/translator organizations.
  • Promoting professional ethics and compliance with all laws, including antitrust laws.
  • Representing the collective professional and legal interests of interpreters before the court and any local or state entity.

In recent years, ATA has been a visible presence at CFI conferences by sponsoring an ATA representative/featured speaker. This year, that honor fell to me. I delivered two 90-minute presentations—one on Saturday, the other on Sunday.

My first presentation, “Applying the Rules of Professional Conduct,” stressed that while court interpreting is, generally speaking, a solitary pursuit, our actions never take place in a vacuum. Our collective behavior must reflect a shared code of professional conduct. During this interactive session, individual experiences and knowledge served to enrich group discussion as attendees analyzed the why’s and how’s of ethical professional practice for court interpreters.

My talk on Sunday, “Professional Ethics: Another Perspective,” addressed aspects of ethics and professional responsibility that are not often covered in presentations for court interpreters: Are interpreter ethics situational? How are the codes of practice for court, medical, and conference interpreters similar or different? Why? Are all aspects of professional responsibility covered by our codes of ethics? The presentation focused on the effects of individual protocol, as well as how business and professional decisions effect one’s peers and the profession as a whole.

Both presentations were well attended, and I took the opportunity to speak about solidarity among professional associations as a means to promote and improve upon our profession as a whole. Attendees welcomed the non-sectarian approach to professional ethics, as well as the broader perspectives achieved by comparing and contrasting various codes of professional practice.

My presentations were just a small part of the overall conference agenda. The program also offered academic presentations reporting on empirical research currently being done on remote interpreting in mediation/police settings, skills-oriented presentations for the three traditional interpreting modalities used in the courts, as well as new developments in hybrid modalities. Attendees could also choose from a variety of specialized subject area presentations relevant to court interpreters, including a plenary session on the current implementation of video-remote interpreting in the California courts.

My presence was fruitful on more than one front. ATA was visible as an involved and committed actor in the interpreting world. I gained a deeper understanding of issues that are near and dear to interpreting professionals on a regional and national scale, as California courts often offer a glimpse into the future, given they serve the largest number of limited-English-speaking individuals in the nation in a wide variety of languages. Finally, I was asked by ATA and non-ATA members alike to convey heartfelt thanks to ATA for supporting the conference.

I highly recommend that ATA continue to send a speaker to represent ATA at future CFI conferences.


Melinda Gonzalez-Hibner is an ATA director and the chair of ATA’s Interpretation Policy Advisory Committee. She is a state and federally certified court interpreter (English<>Spanish). Her interpreting career has been diverse, covering conference, court, and community assignments at all levels. In 2004, she became the first full-time administrator of the Court Interpreter Program for the Colorado Judicial Department. Currently, she works as a staff interpreter for the U.S. District Court of New Mexico. In addition to her state and federal certifications, she is qualified as an interpreter by the U.S. Department of State. She is a founding member and past co-chair of the Colorado Association of Professional Interpreters and a past director of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators. She holds a BA from the University of Texas and an MSc from the London School of Economics. Contact: melindagonzalezhibner@gmail.com.

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