AAPTI board of directors  


Angie Birchfield, President and Legislative Committee Chair

In 2003 Angie learned that some individuals were unlawfully taking other people’s certification number and names from the Judicial Council’s public database of certified interpreters and fraudulently pretended to be certified in legal proceedings, including depositions. As a result, she addressed this issue before the Judicial Council and requested that our certification numbers be removed from the public database. She also requested a requirement that interpreters needed to state their appearances and their certification number at the beginning of every event. The numbers were eventually removed from the database, but the certification confirmation was not enforced.

 In 2013 she became the Freelance Unit chair for TTIG - The Translators and Interpreters Guild, a unit of the CWA/TNG union. Angie and her TTIG co-chair were successful in changing its name to the Interpreters Guild of America after realizing that ours was a national plight in the profession. In 2016, she was appointed to the Language Access Task Force, VRI Committee and Pilot Project, the LAP Budget Committee, and the LAP Technological Solutions Committee, representing independent contractors. She brought to the table her years of experience, and that of her many colleagues as independent contractors in the courts and in the private sector.

 IGA along with the assistance of the union lobbyist, advocated successfully for the recognition of our certification. We achieved this goal through Assembly Bill 2370 where we are required to place our certification number on the record each time we interpreted at a legal proceeding, in or out of court. Although this was meant for Civil, Medical, and Workers Compensation matters, it was also implemented in Criminal court. This was by far one of her greatest achievements for the profession.

Following that success, she travelled to Sacramento advocating for interpreters working in the Workers Compensation and medical interpreting areas. She assisted Senator Mendoza in the language for SB1160 in an effort to protect interpreters in the workers compensation arena.

She worked with other stakeholders to make sure that the certification requirement was not removed from Small Claims matters through SB 1150 Hueso, and finally SB2257 which began as SB900 which was a result of AB5.

In 2019 the private sector interpreters faced a challenge of the language and implementation of AB5. It was clear to her that in order to preserve the integrity of the profession in the private sector, she needed to find a way to represent the independent language professionals so that they would not be affected with by some of the strict requirements. She fought hard along with colleagues Michele Stevens, Julie Drucker, and Ttzol Lopez, to convince the union to support them, to no avail. She felt compelled to resign from her position as Unit Chair due to the lack of support in defending freelancers from the unintended consequences of AB5.

This was an unprecedented effort and by far the most difficult of obstacles to overcome. Yet, Angie and her colleagues worked diligently to convince the legislators in Sacramento to hear them out, and they were successful. After going through months of fighting and prevailing, it became apparent that the language profession had arrived! As a result, it was clear that we need constant representation at the legislative level so we will never be overlooked again.

 She is proud to be a part of the AAPTI group. She strongly believes that AAPTI shares the same commitment and values to represent our profession, and to protect the communities we serve by assuring that they have access to competent and professional language services. She hopes that you will join AAPTI and commit to travel down this road together!

Contact Angie Birchfield


Giovana Farias-Izmirlian, Treasurer

As a California State Certified Court interpreter since 2013, Giovana has extensive experience as a licensed professional. Her previous experience includes over 10 years in the private sector in the banking and mutual fund industry where she conducted business in English and Spanish. Additionally, her education includes a Bachelor of Arts in International Business with a concentration in Spanish and two years of MBA coursework from Cal State Fullerton.  Ms. Farias-Izmirlian completed the Court Interpreting Program at Southern California School of Interpretation and continuously completes additional coursework to challenge herself and further enhance her skills. 

Giovana works primarily in legal proceedings which includes civil and administrative matters. Additionally, she works with clients who require her services to provide their staff medical/retirement plan enrollment information and company updates.  Most recently, she provides interpretation services during conferences, community and estate planning meetings.  

Ms. Farias-Izmirlian is a also proud member of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) and the Association of Independent Judiciary Interpreters of California (AIJIC).  She is committed to serving others via her vocation and helping her fellow colleagues in the advancement and recognition of the profession.

Contact Giovana Farias-Izmirlian


Julia Elizarraraz, Secretary  

Julia Elizarraraz is a freelance certified Spanish interpreter and has been court certified for the state of California since 2011. She completed the court interpretation program at Southern California School of Interpretation in Santa Fe Springs, CA, in 2008. Prior to this she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish with Departmental Honors from the University of Southern California in 2007. Her honors thesis was written on the importance of linguistic and cultural sensitivity while interpreting in a medical setting. Her research for this thesis was conducted while volunteering in a number of departments at Keck Hospital of USC (then known as USC University Hospital). Julia subsequently completed First Year Law at Purdue University Global, having studied Criminal Law, Contracts, Torts, and Legal Analysis.

As many interpreters and translators do, Julia became interested in the profession when she found herself interpreting and translating for her immigrant parents from a young age. As a teenager, Julia was preparing contracts and legal correspondence in both English and Spanish for her family and community, and by age 14, she was interpreting for her parents in civil court. Her first trial interpretation was for her parents as self-represented plaintiffs, and this is where she discovered her love and talent for simultaneous interpretation. She considers one of her greatest professional moments to be when she was the trial interpreter in a wrongful death case where the jury pool was considered to be hostile toward the Spanish-speaking plaintiffs. After interpreting their testimony on the witness stand, the jury rendered a verdict awarding them $30 million.

Julia is a proud member of AAPTI since it made its public debut in February 2020 and as of the time of this writing, has served on AAPTI’s Membership Committee as Chair since the committee’s inception in April 2021. She has been a member of the Legislative Committee since August 2021. Now, in her capacity as Secretary, she looks forward to collaborating with every member of AAPTI, other colleagues and students of the profession, and the communities we all serve.

Contact Julia Elizarraraz

Madeline Rios, Director of Community Engagement 

Madeline Rios has been a freelance interpreter and translator since 1983. She holds a certificate in translation and interpretation from the University of California at Los Angeles, a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Clark University, and a Master of Arts in Spanish Translation and Interpreting from the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley. Ms. Ríos is a life, voting, Spanish to English translator certified by the American Translators Association. 

She is a member of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators and the Association of Independent Judicial Interpreters of California. She is certified as a Spanish/English court interpreter by the Judicial Council of California and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. 

Ms. Ríos has worked as a translation instructor with the University of California at Fullerton, and has made numerous presentations, published papers, contributed to bilingual dictionaries, and offered training through the Judicial Council of California and professional organizations in the U.S. and Mexico. Her pro bono work includes interpreting for asylum cases and organizing interpreting teams for indigenous consultant organizations at the United Nations, for investigation of the zero-tolerance immigration policy, for the Pomona Habla coalition of Pomona, California, and for the Latino/Latina Roundtable of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, where she serves on its board of directors. She is the former director of the Guatemalan Education Action Project and was the editor of its Guatemala Review publications. Since 1986 she has also interpreted pro bono for the U.S. Southwest regional tours of Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum. 

Contact Madeline Rios


Mary Lee Behar, Member at Large  

Mary Lee Behar, founder of Spotlight Interpreters Inc, has been a certified court interpreter since 2011 and has been active in the efforts to uplift the profession through her membership in AIJIC and AAPTI since their inception.  She is also a current member of CATI, NAJIT and the ATA and in 2009 she was honored as a NAJIT Scholar in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

She holds a Masters in Specialized Translation and Interpretation from UTCB (in Bucharest, Romania) with a concentration in Romanian/Spanish/English, where her thesis paper explored different codes of ethics, case history and examples of when, why and how an interpreter/translator should/should not act as a cultural mediator. She spoke on this topic at the OSTI conference in 2019. 

She also holds a Bachelors in French from UCLA as well as certificates from UCLA Extension & the Southern California School of Interpretation for completion of their interpreter training programs. She has interpreted in medical, legal, education, municipal, and conference settings in Spanish, Romanian and French. She has interpreted for the Rotary Club, the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Tony Robbins, victims of human trafficking, refugees, activists and experts on topics such as inclusion, diversity, sanitation, hygiene, women’s health and empowerment. Currently she is in a hybrid legal translation and interpretation certificate program (in French and English) through ISIT-Paris (ending in September 2024). 

As for volunteer work, she served on her local HOA for two years as a member-at-large, secretary and ultimately president. She also organized the 2021 US Servas National Conference in North Carolina. And when AB5 was looming, she met in-person with Senator Portantino, Councilman Dan Brotman, Councilwoman Paula Devine and Assemblymember Laura Friedman to obtain their support. She was also active in calling and emailing colleagues to get their support against the bill and most recently, she has been part of a group (led by Sara Arredondo, Erin Luna and Rudy Calderon) that has advocated (together with AAPTI and NAJIT) for the North Carolina court interpreters fighting to obtain a fairer contract.

Mary Lee Behar has also used her voice to fight for clean air, water, soil and energy. She cares passionately about the environment and has consequently turned a large part of her yard into a pollinator and wildlife habitat that also provides beauty and food for her family. She also strongly believes in the value of life-long learning and loves that AAPTI provides continuing education as a perk of membership. 

She acknowledges that she is just one person but she knows that one person can and should change the world by leveraging the support and influence of those around them. She looks forward to being a force for good in life in general but also in the profession. 

Outside of work, you can find her in her garden, on a trail, on a yoga mat, studying foreign languages or spending time with her family and her pets.

Contact Mary Lee Behar


Jesús Ernesto Jiménez, Member at Large 

Jesús Ernesto Jiménez is a native of Mexico City with over 15 years experience as a language service provider.

Ernesto is an experienced conference interpreter and a certified court interpreter. As an independent contractor, he enjoys the variety of subjects he encounters every day. 

As a Language consultant for TV and Film, Ernesto works backstage with directors, actors, producers and marketing companies to dial-in to Spanish speaking audiences. More recently, some of his work has taken him in front of the cameras as an interpreter for court TV shows. Variety!

Having started his career as a translator in 2008, he still enjoys providing these services to loyal clients that have been there since the beginning, as well as to new clients. These translations often serve as key evidence in trials or to engage a broader audience.

Ernesto will never forget the day when he was hired for a small meeting that required him to drive far away in rush hour traffic, and to make matters worse, he was given the wrong address. He almost regretted taking the assignment, and would have still been paid if he just went home, but he persisted and finally made it to the correct address. At this meeting, a non English speaking parent came in who had lost a child to severe illness and her livelihood at the same time. Helping this parent and the organization to communicate made him realize the impact that interpretation could have on someone's life.

Because only a few companies and organizations can afford to keep a professional translator and or interpreter on staff, Ernesto believes that it is vitally important to safeguard the profession of independent contractor interpreters that can provide these vital services as needed. 

Ernesto is a voting member of the American Translators Association (ATA), a member of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT), and a founding member of the American Association of Professional Translators & Interpreters (AAPTI).

Contact Jesús Ernesto Jiménez 

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software