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Interpreters at Trial

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a daughter of a client who wants to know if the court will supply an interpreter for her father if her father’s case goes to trial?

Interpreters are a vital part of the legal system.

Courts do have a responsibility to ensure that a litigant has a qualified interpreter available for legal proceedings.

An interpreter is not the same as a translator.

These two terms are often used interchangeably, but different skills are required for each.

Interpreting means transferring a verbal message from the source language into a verbal message in the target language.

Translating means transferring a written message from the source language into a written statement in the target language.

Evidence Rule 604 deals with interpreters.  An interpreter must be qualified and must give an oath or affirmation to do an accurate translation.

Family members and friends are not qualified to interpret during an official court proceeding. A certified interpreter who is neutral and does not know the parties should interpret a court proceeding.

Interpreters are to apply their skill and judgment to preserve faithfully the meaning of what is said in court, including the style of speech. Verbatim or literal oral interpretations are not appropriate if they distort a statement in the source language. Even if it appears non-responsive, obscene, rambling, or incoherent, every spoken word should be interpreted.

Suppose the need arises to explain an interpreting problem (e.g., a term or phrase with no direct equivalent in the target language or a misunderstanding that only the interpreter can clarify). In that case, the interpreter should ask the court’s permission to provide an explanation. Interpreters should convey the emotional emphasis of the speaker without mimicking the speaker’s emotions or dramatic gestures.

Interpreters must maintain an impartial attitude and avoid unnecessary discussions with counsel, parties, and witnesses, either inside or outside the courtroom, to avoid any appearance of partiality.

Each court interpreter shall guard confidential information and not betray the confidences which may have been entrusted to him or her by any parties concerned.

The interpreter must uphold the confidentiality of all privileged information obtained during his/her duties. The interpreter must maintain the attorney-client privilege, which requires secrecy concerning any communication between attorney and client.

Interpreters must also refrain from repeating or disclosing information obtained by them in their employment that may be relevant to the legal proceeding.

In most cases, the court must pay for interpreter services. To provide equal and meaningful access to limited English proficient individuals who access the judicial system, it is the court’s responsibility to pay the costs for an interpreter.

A trial court has the discretion to utilize the services of an interpreter even if a party objects.

The trial court must administer an oath to the interpreter to provide an accurate translation, just like the court must administer an oath to a witness before the witness testifies.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”