"Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination." -- Department of Justice
In compliance with Title II of ADA, Title VI of Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 13166, and DOJ policy the Language Access Services Unit ensures equal access to the state courts "at all points of contact."
This portal contains Supreme Court Rules, video content, guidelines and other resources related to Language Access Services in our state courts. The content has been divided into sections: Fundamentals, Tips for Interpreted Proceedings, The Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Non-English Speaking Jurors and Prospective Jurors, and Native Americans in our Courts. Additional information on Language Access Services can be found here.
Only court-appointed interpreters can serve as official interpreters in the courtroom. Attorneys, family members or friends cannot serve as official court interpreters. Court interpreters cannot be used for any other services or activities other than interpreting and sight translating.
Ascertain if there is a need for an interpreter early on. If it appears that the person has difficulty understanding English, Voir dire them with questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” response. For example “Please tell me how comfortable you feel speaking and understanding English?”
Once the need for interpreting services has been confirmed, you must administer the following oath:
Oath to the Spoken Language Interpreter (Must Administer Prior to all Criminal and Civil Proceedings)
"Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will truly and impartially interpret or translate from English to (name of language) and from (name of language) to English all questions and answers and matters pertaining to this cause in an understandable manner using your best skills and judgment in accordance with the standards and ethics of the interpreter profession, under penalty of law?" UJI 13-212
Oath to the Sign Language Interpreter (Must Administer Prior to all Criminal and Civil Proceedings)
"Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will make a true interpretation in an understandable manner to the deaf person for whom you are appointed, under penalty of law?" UJI 13-212A
The interpreter is not allowed to simplify or explain. Interpreters maintain the original register. The interpreter cannot "explain the proceedings" to the LEP deaf/HH individual.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR INTERPRETED PROCEEDINGS
What to Expect:
The court interpreter may ask the judges's permission to communicate with the LEP speaker or deaf/HH person before the hearing begins to make sure they understand each other.
The interpreter may use special equipment in the courtroom. They will briefly explain to the LEP speaker or deaf/HH person how it works.
The interpreter will repeat to the attorney, in English, all statements that have been made to the LEP speaker or deaf/HH person to avoid the appearance of side conversations.
The interpreter will interpret simultaneously when the judge addresses the attorneys or jurors and when the attorneys address the court.
Speak DIRECTLY to the party. The interpreter will repeat everything exactly as it is spoken. The interpreter uses the third person when addressing the court on his/her own behalf. Ex. – Do not say: “Tell Mr. Garcia he is charged with….” Instead speak directly to the party; “Mr. Garcia, you are charged with…” Please correct attorneys who do not speak directly to the party as it will create confusion.
Please do not ask the interpreter to not repeat something they have heard. If an English speaker would have heard it, the interpreter ethically must repeat it.
Audibility – The interpreter must inform the court of conditions that substantially impair their effectiveness.
Speed – Speak at a normal rate. It is not necessary to go at a slower pace, as certified interpreters will be able to keep up. However, exercise caution when reading texts of law, Criminal Complaints, Jury Instructions, etc. Although the certified interpreter may be keeping pace, the speed may make it become unintelligible for the listener.
Permit only one Speaker at a time; maintain that standard even in jury deliberations.
Be cognizant of interpreter Fatigue - Best Practices recommend team interpreting for LEP Jurors for trials. The interpreter profession recommends team interpreting for events that exceed 2 hours. Per Supreme Court rule the court shall allow the interpreter a 5-minute break approximately every 30 minutes. The court shall state on the record that they contacted the AOC, the Administration Office of the Court, for assistance in locating two qualified court interpreters but two could not be found; and the court shall allow the court interpreter to take a five minute break approximately every 30 minutes.
Permit the interpreter to prepare. Let them know the type of case in advance so they can review their glossaries. Once there at the court event, permit the interpreter to examine pertinent documents such as police reports and Criminal Complaints. Also arrange for a pre-hearing interview between the interpreter and the LEP person using the services to familiarize themselves with speech patterns.
If someone challenges the interpretation, please do not automatically assume that an error has been made. The interpreter is a neutral party and a linguist. The interpreter is duty – bound to correct any error he or she becomes aware of. The following is recommended procedure taken from the National Center for State Courts’ “Judges Guide to Standards for Interpreted Proceedings” Chapter 6, pgs. 136, 137. “If testimony is still being taken, the problem should be raised before the witness is released. In a jury trial, the problem should be handled at side bar. The judge first determines if the issue is substantial or potentially prejudicial and requires determination. If the judge agrees that it is substantial, the judge should refer the matter first to the interpreter for reconsideration. If this ides not resolve the problem, evidence from the other expert interpreters or any other linguistic expert the judge may select should be sought. In extreme circumstances it may be appropriate to permit attorneys from both sides to submit an expert. The judge should make a final determination as to the correct interpretation. If that is different from the original interpretation, then the court should amend the record accordingly and advise the jury.”
Don't ask the interpreter to "explain the proceedings" to the LEP deaf/HH individual.
Don't use acronyms or legal jargon that may present a challenge for the interpreter without fully stating the name for which the acronym stands.
Don't ask the interpreter to participate in any other activities other than interpreter for the LEP or deaf/HH individual.
Don't use the courtroom interpreter for lengthy interviews and follow-up conversations with your client outside the courtroom.
THE DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING
To learn more about working with deaf and hard of hearing individuals, go here.
NATIVE AMERICANS IN OUR COURTS.
To learn more about working with Native Americans, go here.
NON ENGLISH SPEAKING JURORS
To learn more about working with non-English speaking jurors and prospective jurors, go here.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. No interpreter is available for a prospective juror on a given day. What can I do?
A. The prospective jurors can be postponed to next term or excused for that day’s selection and be called to serve as a juror on another day. This does not mean that you are excusing the juror from jury duty.
Q. What's proper practice for use of Certified Languages International (CLI) aka the 800 #?
A. This service is available in a wide variety of spoken languages and is reserved for out-of-courtroom interpreting, i.e., between clerks and non-English speakers at the window and when a certified interpreter and Language Access Specialists (LAS staff) are not available. Not all CLI interpreters are court certified therefore it may only be used in the courtroom with AOC approval in the event that no AOC Court Certified Interpreter is available to appear telephonically.
Q. Does the AOC provide interpreting, transcription and/or translation services for the parties for example in the case of evidentiary material, witness interviews, etc.?
A. No. It is the responsibility of the private attorney, Public Defender or District Attorney to provide qualified interpretation and translation services for witness interviews, pre-trial transcriptions and evidentiary materials.
Q. Does the AOC provide an interpreter for attorney/client communications during proceedings?
A. No. It is the responsibility of the private attorney, Public Defender or District Attorney to provide qualified interpretation for attorney/client communications during proceedings.
Q. What happens if someone challenges the interpretation?
A. “If testimony is still being taken, the problem should be raised before the witness is released. In a jury trial, the problem should be handled at side bar. The judge first determines if the issue is substantial or potentially prejudicial and requires determination. If the judge agrees that it is substantial, the judge should refer the matter first to the interpreter for reconsideration. If this ides not resolve the problem, evidence from the other expert interpreters or any other linguistic expert the judge may select should be sought. In extreme circumstances it may be appropriate to permit attorneys from both sides to submit an expert. The judge should make a final determination as to the correct interpretation. If that is different from the original interpretation, then the court should amend the record accordingly and advise the jury.” National Center for State Courts’ “Judges Guide to Standards for Interpreted Proceedings” Chapter 6, pgs. 136, 137.
Note on Guidelines
The rules that govern interpreter services are almost exactly the same for civil proceedings in district (Rule 1-103), magistrate courts (Rule 2-113) and metropolitan (Rule 3-113) . The criminal rules are also the same for interpreters in criminal proceedings in district (Rule 5-122), magistrate courts (Rule 6-115), metropolitan (Rule 7-114). The guidelines presented are meant to apply to both civil and criminal proceedings in district, metro and magistrate courts.