Robert Joe has had three lifelong passions: social justice, research and languages. Those interests were brought together when, while working as a Research Associate with the Probation Services Division at the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts, Chief Justice Robert N. Wilentz appointed him lead staff person for the Supreme Court Task Force on Interpreter and Translation Services. After three years of an intense research program resulting in the Final Report: Equal Access to the Courts for Linguistic Minorities (1985), he was appointed head of the state’s first office to design, implement and manage a new office that would implement the Judiciary’s comprehensive program for equal access for persons with limited English proficiency. He managed that office until retiring in December 2008.
Since his retirement, Robert Joe has remained active in the field recruiting and training raters for state court interpreter certification exams, managing test maintenance efforts for various certification exams, consulting with various state court interpreting programs, and undertaking research projects that would build the literature for this area of court administration.
Under the leadership of William E. Hewitt of the National Center for State Courts, Robert Joe helped form the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification in 1995 and served on the advisory committee overseeing the project that resulted in the publication of Court Interpretation: Model Guides for Policy and Practice in the State Courts (1995). He served on the Consortium’s Executive Committee and chaired its Technical Committee (which was responsible for overseeing the development and administration of certification exams) from 1995 until his retirement.
Accordingly, he has developed a national reputation for his expertise in these primary areas:
Robert Joe has guided teams to develop new court interpreting tests and/or revise existing exams in the following languages:
Chief Justice Robert N. Wilentz formed the New Jersey Supreme CourtTask Force on Interpreter and Translation Services in 1982, nurtured it to its conclusion in 1985, and oversaw the adoption and implementation of its recommendations for several years until his premature resignation due to health concerns and passing in 1996. This was but one dimension of his vision to make the Judiciary an accessible institution for all.
Judge Herbert S. Alterman, J.S.C., of Passaic County served as Chairman of that Task Force. No one could ask for a better mentor whose blend of wisdom, humor and foresight helped the Task Force produce a final report that became a classic and standard in the field. We lost this luminary in 2014.
José Higinio Soto Matos was the person whose entry into my life detoured me from an academic career in Biblical scholarship to one in the administration of justice. When I came to New Jersey to study at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1971, Mr. Soto Matos was an inmate in Trenton State Prison. Since the Seminary required field education and I was not sure what to do to fulfill that requirement, the church I attended at the time had just converted him and the opportunity arose to do prison ministry! Three years of part-time prison chaplaincy with Spanish-speaking prisoners fueled a growing commitment to work in some area of criminal justice that ultimately led me to complete a graduate degree in criminal justice and find employment at the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts. Here’s to an abiding friendship of almost fifty years as José passed away in March 2019.
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