West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals demonstrates video system

April 05, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • State supreme court justices from nine states and the District of Columbia observe a mock trial held in Jefferson County Courthouse Thursday that showcased how state courts can provide long-distance foreign language interpretation.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals launched a video system in 1998 that allows defendants to participate in preliminary and parole hearings as well as trials from jail rather than having to appear in court.

The system saves the state about $3 million in prisoner transportation costs each year, Justice Robin Davis of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals said Thursday in Charles Town.

Davis said the system was established in the late 1990s to cut down on the costs and dangers of transporting prisoners for arraignments. Some counties are 90 minutes away from regional jails.

Speaking in the Jefferson County Circuit Courthouse, Davis addressed nearly 30 supreme court justices, court administrators and executives from nine states and the District of Columbia as part of the three-day 2012 Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators, which ends today in Shepherdstown, W.Va.


Attending the conference Thursday were Chief Justice Eric Washington of the District of Columbia and Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Justices Brent Benjamin and Davis represented the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

Thursday morning was dedicated to demonstrations using interpreters on video cameras to translate proceedings for non-English-speaking defendants who know what’s going on in their own language through eye-to-eye contact with their interpreters, Davis said.

The demonstration included mock hearings — one civil, one criminal — using offsite Russian and Norwegian interpreters. Local attorneys volunteered to act as plaintiffs, defendants and prosecuting attorneys.

Circuit Judge David H. Sanders, in whose courtroom the demonstrations were held, presided over the mock hearings.

The U.S. Attorney General’s Office in 2010 required certified interpreters to be provided in all court hearings. Because West Virginia’s system already was in place, it was easy for the Mountain State to comply, Davis said.

The Jefferson County Courthouse played a particular role in the demonstration, not because of its historic significance, but because modern courthouses lend themselves to the installation of new technologies, said Steve Canterbury, administrative director of the West Virginia Supreme Court.

“We wanted to demonstrate that if we can accomplish this here and maintain the unique historic integrity of this building, then it is possible virtually anywhere,” Canterbury said.

The Herald-Mail Articles