The law requires that a professional interpreter is present during the proceedings when your client or witness are not English proficient or fluent and require the assistance of a judicial interpreter. The interpreters provide assistance to the court in overcoming the linguistic barrier in the administration of justice and carrying out due process. Additionally permitting the LEP (Limited English Proficient) to be linguistically present.
The following recommendations can help ensure a smooth deposition and lead to a proper translation and an accurate and precise record when you use a judicial interpreter.
The Interpreter’s Credentials
Interpreters undergo years of extensive training and education and are taught a breadth of legal terminology including various techniques that have to be mastered; the simultaneous, consecutive and legal sight translation modes. All three must be learned to perfection in order to become certified along with the completion of a thorough Supreme Court program that are pre-requisites for completion before final testing. Additionally interpreters must be compliant with continuing education credits.
In July of 2011, the Supreme Court of Ohio adopted a new rule (Rule 88) that took effect on January 1, 2013. The rule requires:
“…courts to hire a certified foreign language or sign language interpreter, when available, to ensure the ‘meaningful participation’ of deaf and limited English proficient.
“Rule 88 of the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio also requires courts to ‘use all reasonable efforts’ to avoid the appointment of interpreters who may have a conflict of interest.
“The Supreme Court began certifying court interpreters when related amendments became effective Jan.1, 2010. The first group of court interpreters were certified on Feb. 1, 2011.
“The court interpreter rules are designed to provide the most qualified interpreters available given the number of possible languages that may appear in the state court system.” (Source: The Supreme Court of Ohio)
The Supreme Court of Ohio adopted Rule 88. It took effect January 1, 2013 in an attempt to provide language access services that comply with not only Constitutional guarantees, but also with Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act and some of the other regulations that the Department of Justice has set forth for language access services in cases with individuals with limited English proficiency.
While these rules apply to the court system, it is best to use court certified interpreters for depositions as well to prevent appeals down the road.
As with witnesses, interpreters are sworn in at the start of the deposition, and as impartial officers of the court we are bound under oath to the Standards for Performance and Professional Responsibility Canons by the Supreme Court of Ohio:
- Accuracy and completeness.
- Representation of qualifications.
- Impartiality, conflicts of interest, and remuneration and gifts. We are impartial and unbiased, and we refrain from conduct that may give an appearance of bias. We cannot converse with parties, witnesses, jurors, attorneys, or friends or relatives of any party, except in the discharge of official functions.
- Professional demeanor and high standards of conduct.
- Restriction of public comment. We cannot discuss publicly, report, or offer any opinion concerning a matter.
- Scope of practice. We have to limit ourselves to interpreting, and may not engage in any other activities which may be construed to constitute a service other than interpreting.
- Assessing and reporting impediments to performance.
- Duty is to report ethical violations.
Prepare to Slow Down, Speak up, and be Mindful
Speaking at a steady pace is essential. The interpreters speak just as fast as the court reporters take down the record, and keep in mind we are using 22 cognitive skills at the same time! Speak loud enough for the interpreter to understand your questions. Since every question and each answer will require translation, prepare for a longer deposition than normal. The interpreter is your voice and is trained to speak as you in the “second form of person address” and in questioning, the interpreter transitions into the consecutive mode and takes down notes and symbols to trigger his or her memory when rendering in the target language.
Interpreters should interpret everything said without modifications, alterations, or omissions to achieve legal equivalence and meaningful comprehension.
You will also need to prepare for unequivocal translations. Many phrases, words, and concepts have no direct counterpart in a foreign language. When these differences arise, allow the interpreter to ask for clarification.
It is also advisable to conduct the deposition in short segments that are no longer than 30 minutes each. Taking a 10-15 minute break at these intervals helps alleviate interpreter’s fatigue which can diminish the accuracy of the record. Even the most seasoned interpreters cannot control this physical impediment after a certain period of time working alone. This gives the client, counsel, court reporter, and interpreter an opportunity to relax and refresh before the next segment.
Using Multiple Interpreters
As mentioned before, it may be physically impossible for one interpreter to fulfill all the functions required in a deposition after two hours. In addition to problems of physical placement and fatigue, there are constitutional and privilege issues that might make it desirable or even necessary to appoint more than one interpreter if more than one interpreter function is required. Using multiple interpreters will often be necessary with:
- Any proceeding expected to last two or more hours if continuous simultaneous or consecutive interpretation will be required. This is necessary to ensure the quality of interpretation does not decrease due to interpreter fatigue.
- Proceedings involving a non-English-speaking defendant when non-English-speaking witnesses will testify in order to ensure attorney-client communication can take place.
- Cases involving multiple parties with adverse interests, if counsel or the parties are unwilling to use the same interpreter for privilege communications.
Using multiple interpreters is an accepted practice by the Supreme Court of Ohio and the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters of the United States. When using court reporters and interpreters, counsel should identify each interpreter as either the lead or supporting interpreter. Counsel should convey these roles to opposing counsel, the witness(es), and the court reporter. The court reporter will note these roles during the deposition and in the final transcript.
Pre-Deposition Preparation with the Interpreter
Because diligent preparation assists the interpreter in meeting the ethical responsibility to deliver an accurate interpretation and diminishes cognitive stress, the interpreter must be disclosed of any required case information. Remember we are sworn to maintain confidentiality! Interpreters use case information to build enough background knowledge to quickly and efficiently interpret during the deposition and to resolve difficult terminology or conceptual issues related to the case in advance.
It is important to advise deposition participants to take into consideration the presence of an interpreter and to modify and monitor their language behavior in order to facilitate the interpretation process.
- Avoid long sentences, phrases and questions as much as possible.
- Speakers should avoid excess jargon, slang, colloquialisms, technical terms, proverbs, metaphors, or allegories.
- Avoid rhetorical questions and double negatives.
- Participants should abstain from questions or comments directed at the interpreter without judicial consent.
- If the interpreter signals for a pause in a particular response or question, the speaker should be instructed to permit the interpreter to complete the interpretation and to continue speaking when the interpreter signals to continue.
Staying Calm and Focused
Speaking through an interpreter can be frustrating. This frustration can diminish the veracity and value of the deposition. When preparing your client and witnesses, prepare them for the translation process. This includes teaching them how to wait for the translation of the question and to pause before delivering answers.
Clarifying the Record
Court reporters and interpreters are not allowed to summarize a witnesses statement or explain a witnesses answer. Interpreters are also prohibited from expressing their own personal opinion about the testimony of the witness. Their job is to translate the statements of the witness. It is the attorney’s job to clarify the information through the interpreter.
Mike Mobley Reporting provides highly qualified interpreters for your legal proceedings throughout the Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati regions in Ohio. Learn more about interpreting services at https://www.mobleyreporting.com/legal-interpreters/.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Roxane J. King is a California & Ohio State Courts Judicial Certified Spanish Interpreter.
She got her start in the Los Angeles court system in 2006 at all levels: legal, trial, depositions, arbitrations, witness interviews, expert witness testimony, hearings and resolutions and Immigration Court. She is now based in Cleveland, OH, where she works in the Cleveland Courts and throughout Ohio interpreting and promoting and advocating for the profession as she serves.