Interpreters avoiding Superior Court due to unpaid or delayed payments


Most interpreters are avoiding doing translation services to the Superior Court due to unpaid or delayed payments by the CNMI government.

In contrast, interpreters like to offer services at the U.S. District Court for the NMI because the payment rate is reasonable and they also immediately get paid after submitting their billings.

Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho yesterday brought up the problem on lack of interpreters after the prosecution and the defense counsel informed the court that they had exhausted their list of over 15 Chinese translators trying to obtain an interpreter and without any success.

Camacho said interpreters had expressed their frustrations accepting translating work for the Superior Court due to unpaid or delayed payments.

Camacho was supposed to preside over a bench trial in the criminal case against Gui Fang Lai yesterday at 8am, but due to lack of an interpreter the judge continued the trial yesterday at 1:30pm to allow the parties more time to locate a Chinese translator.

Assistant attorney general Betsy Weintraub appeared for the government. Assistant public defender Matthew Meyer is counsel for Lai.

An interpreter, who requested anonymity, said it’s true that interpreters are trying to avoid servicing the Superior Court because it would take the government sometimes a year or two years to pay them.

The interpreter said what really disappoints them is when the government makes a “cut” on the payment rate.

He explained that the rate is $15 per hour, but when they serve less than an hour sometimes they just get paid $3.75 for the time they only actually perform interpretation.

“When we come to the court on time, sometimes the hearings are delayed for two hours and we are not getting paid for that two hours,” the interpreter said. “You come to court and sometimes get only $3.75. That’s very humiliating.”

On payment, the interpreter said they get paid only after the case is over and sometimes it takes two years.

As compared to District Court, the interpreter said they don’t have problem as the rate there is $111 even if it’s less than an hour.

He said the federal court also pays within a month after the billings are submitted.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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