Signing Interpreter Declaration

  • 07/11/2023 13:08
    Message # 13226513
    Ethics Panel (Administrator)

    Today I was interpreting during a plea hearing.  The plea agreement had been previously sight-translated to the defendant by a different interpreter.  During today's hearing, the commissioner pointed out that the previous interpreter had struck the phrase "which the defendant understands" from the interpreter's attestation.  The commissioner asked defense counsel "Do you know why the interpreter did that?" Defense counsel responded, "Your honor, she said something about not being able to speak to someone else's understanding of the language, although the defendant obviously understands Spanish, so I don't really know why."  The commissioner then directed the defense attorney to state the defendant's first language. 

    Question: Would it be appropriate for me to send an email to the bailiff saying something like "This came up yesterday, and I thought the Court might be interested in knowing that interpreters are explicitly instructed to strike such verbiage, per the Standards of Practice and Ethics for Washington State Judiciary Interpreters" and include the citation and the link to the document? 

    Last modified: 07/25/2023 13:06 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)
  • 07/11/2023 17:04
    Reply # 13226608 on 13226513
    Ethics Panel (Administrator)
    1. The Ethics Panel applauds your restraint and professionalism. You did exactly the right thing: you kept interpreting. While on the record, the interpreter must interpret everything stated, including the exchanges between judge and attorney.  If the interpreter were to give an opinion, or explanation, of what a colleague has or has not done,  it would create two problems: 1) the interpreter would have to interpret themself --, always awkward; and, 2) the interpreter would become a subject-matter expert, stepping out of the role of impartial and neutral conduit of what is said.
    2. Your colleague correctly crossed out the statement "which the defendant understands" from the interpreter declaration. Standards of Practice and Ethics, Signing Declarations states: ‘It is not the interpreter’s role to attest to any party’s linguistic abilities or state of mind. Interpreters may attest only to what they are qualified to do and what they did.

    3. Your hesitation to contact the bailiff, for the reasons you state, shows your tact and sound judgment. We suggest you contact the interpreter coordinator or the person who scheduled you. Explain what happened and show them "Protocol, Signing Declarations" in the Standards. You might also contact your professional association. They may decide to send a letter to the court referencing Standards of Practice and Ethics Signing Declarations. This may result in more accurate interpreter declarations.
    Last modified: 07/11/2023 17:05 | Ethics Panel (Administrator)
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