Zoom comes in handy for Wisconsin court system interpreters


MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin court system is expanding its remote meeting capabilities with Zoom to include simultaneous interpretation.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic the online video conferencing service has been used to conduct live-stream feeds of proceedings in the Wisconsin circuit courts and oral arguments before the state’s Supreme Court.

According to a news release the courts initially viewed Zoom as a short term solution but now Director of State Courts Randy R. Koschnick has assigned a committee to explore all of its possibilities

“At first, we were forced to use Zoom just to get by,” Koschnick said. “It quickly became a vital tool that has helped keep us functioning to the greatest extent possible during the pandemic.”

Zoom has already made it possible for some interpreters to return to work remotely alongside other court proceedings participants.

This is primarily because the video conferencing service has a special interpretation feature with two audio channels to allow for simultaneous interpretation–a huge time saver used a majority of the time in during typical court proceedings.

“It’s not perfect, and we still have some work to do but it’s already made a huge impact,” said Wisconsin Court Interpreter Program Manager Carmel Capati of Zoom.

Capati initially had hopes for implementing a new Video Remote Interpreting pilot program to address a shortage of qualified interpreters but when the pandemic hit those hopes were ruined. 

In a matter of weeks, in-person circuit court activity dropped by 70 percent statewide with court administrative offices in Madison closing to the public on March 18. Beyond that, plans for projects, conferences and educational programming were canceled or put on indefinite hold.