Off topic: Lawyer challenges translator testimony
Thread poster: Ana Naglić

Ana Naglić  Identity Verified
Croatia
Local time: 23:51
Member (2005)
English to Croatian
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Nov 4, 2005

www.news14.com

Lawyer challenges translator testimony
Updated: 11/3/2005 7:30:58 PM
By: News 14 Carolina
GASTONIA, N.C. -- The trial continued Thursday for Amilcar Valladares, the man accused of a hit-and-run that left five people injured in Gastonia.

Police say Valladares was street racing in May when he lost control of his car and rammed into a line of people outside a Dairy Queen on Franklin Boulevard. Two of the victims were left with permanent disabilities.

Sara Marie Wall, the woman he was allegedly racing, pleaded guilty in September.

Amilcar Valladares enters the courtroom Thursday.
During Thursday’s court proceedings, Valladares’ attorney questioned the accuracy of his client’s translator. He asked the judge to strike all of the translator’s testimony.

The judge will make a decision on that issue Friday morning. The trial is expected to last through Monday.

Source: http://www.news14charlotte.com/content/local_news/?AC=&ArID=106099&SecID=2


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teju  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:51
English to Spanish
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Reprehensible Nov 4, 2005

I've had my interpretation challenged once by an attorney during a trial years ago. Not a pleasant experience. Because it was a jury trial, the judge asked everyone to approach the bench. I volunteered to have the question rephrased, so that we could clarify the matter. Fortunately, the judge admonished the defense attorney. He told him that I was a federally certified court interpreter, and the expert in matters of translation for the purpose of that trial, and that he wasn't going to allow him to challenge my credentials. Unless he too was a certified court interpreter and he hadn't disclosed that to the court (yeah, right. This person had a very limited knowledge of the language, I've heard him butcher it. And we continued the trial without any other outbursts from any of the attorneys.
I wish all judges were like that. While I recognize that there are instances when an interpreter may make a mistake, the question remains: who is qualified to determine if the interpreter has made an error? When I've interpreted during trials, we've always done team interpreting, for this very reason, and also to avoid interpreter fatigue. When you have another interpreter listening to a colleague's work, there's a safety net. In this case, the judge didn't want to consult with the other interpreter. He was familiar with our work, and knows that the back up interpreter will step in to correct the record, if needed.
I'm a Spanish court interpreter, and I live in an area where most people are bilingual. That poses a problem. I've always said that things would be soooooo much easier if I were a Chinese interpreter, no one could challenge anything I ever said. Instead, everyone is hanging on to my every word. And regretfully, the interpreter is always going to have someone (the defense or the prosecution) who's not too pleased with the testimony of the witness. Challenging the interpretation is one of the tactics that some unscrupulous lawyers use to declare a mistrial, wasting the taxpayers money, and damaging the credibility of an interpreter.
I have a friend who was offered a job interpreting for the O.J. Simpson trial, when the maid testified. She refused the job because she knew full well that her interpretation would be dissected and analyzed to the extreme, in such a high profile case it's not unsual for the defense to bring along another interpreter to monitor the court interpreter's work. And we all know how regionalisms add to the degree of difficulty to what's already a profession that is not an exact science. The saying goes, "put 100 interpreters in a room, and they each will give you a different interpretation of the same thing". We can only agree to disagree, language is not math.
I don't interpret during trials anymore, it can be very stressful, plus I was offered and excellent job with an appeals tribunal. I love my rutine!
I would really like to hear about similar experiences from other court interpreters, and how the matter was handled.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:51
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Sounds familiar Nov 5, 2005

teju wrote:

I've had my interpretation challenged once by an attorney during a trial years ago. Not a pleasant experience. Because it was a jury trial, the judge asked everyone to approach the bench. I volunteered to have the question rephrased, so that we could clarify the matter. Fortunately, the judge admonished the defense attorney. He told him that I was a federally certified court interpreter, and the expert in matters of translation for the purpose of that trial, and that he wasn't going to allow him to challenge my credentials. Unless he too was a certified court interpreter and he hadn't disclosed that to the court (yeah, right. This person had a very limited knowledge of the language, I've heard him butcher it. And we continued the trial without any other outbursts from any of the attorneys.


I also work for an international law firm with an interpreting pool. The attitude of the firm (which is also the attitude of judges and arbiters) is, that it's really indifferent which one of the corps of prequalified interpreters is used. In effect, interpreters can change in mid-proceedings.

However, it is a well-known tactic for lawyers that such an objection may gain time for the other party and may, in effect, be used to hold up proceedings or procrastinate when their interests stand to gain from it. So the question of who is handling interpretation is really a question of schedules.


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
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Tactics - don't take it personally Nov 5, 2005

Parrot wrote:
However, it is a well-known tactic for lawyers that such an objection may gain time for the other party and may, in effect, be used to hold up proceedings or procrastinate when their interests stand to gain from it.


This is the first thing that came to my mind too. There are, however, more elegant ways of stalling proceedings. Most judges will see through this attempt and, as was mentioned above, reprimand the attorney in question... Oh well, at least the client will think the attorney is doing a good job.

[Edited at 2005-11-05 18:59]


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teju  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:51
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True Nov 5, 2005

Derek Gill Franßen wrote:
This is the first thing that came to my mind too. There are, however, more elegant ways of stalling proceedings. Most judges will see through this attempt and, as was mentioned above, reprimand the attorny in question... Oh well, at least the client will think the attorney is doing a good job.

[Edited at 2005-11-05 11:55]


I totally agree with you. There's no doubt that a great deal of these objections come from defense attorneys posturing in front of their clients to impress them, and to justify their huge retainers.

What really is a serious matter is when an interpreter's abilities are impeached for the whole world to see, believe me, the word gets around.

I know someone who was in a similar situation. The defense attorney objected to his interpretation, and as a result, they declared a mistrial. He was devastated. This happened about five years ago, and to this date he hasn't interpreted at trials again (he'll only work at arraignments, or hearings). This is the sort of thing that can be very damaging to one's confidence and destroy your reputation. Not all judges handle these matters fairly. We all wish that judges were required to attend seminars on how to handle cases like this. Considering all the time, cost, and preparation that goes into having a trial, judges should know exactly what to do when a lawyer objects to an interpretation of testimony. For now, it's up to us to educate all the nincompoop attorneys out there who would like to blame us for their inanity and inadequacy. To them I say "let's play fair, you do your job well, and let me do mine".


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:51
German to English
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Thick skin Nov 5, 2005

teju wrote:
What really is a serious matter is when an interpreter's abilities are impeached for the whole world to see, believe me, the word gets around.


I agree that situations like these are very unfortunate and should not take place.

teju wrote:
I know someone who was in a similar situation. The defense attorney objected to his interpretation, and as a result, they declared a mistrial. He was devastated. This happened about five years ago, and to this date he hasn't interpreted at trials again (he'll only work at arraignments, or hearings). This is the sort of thing that can be very damaging to one's confidence and destroy your reputation.


It may differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but I have trouble imagining that one single mistrial would be something that would having a lasting effect on an interpreter's reputation - especially considering the fact that mistrials happen quite regularly for a variety of reasons (thinking back to my clerkship days....

As far as being an "ego-killer", I'm sure these types of objections can have that effect. On the other hand, the attorney is also not being paid to watch out for the interpreter's feelings (though professional respect should prevail). I take it that you interpret regularly (I don't) and - without meaning any disrespect whatsoever - I would like to ask if you will also quit interpreting when a judge declares a mistrial based on your false interpretation sometime in the future. I hope not.

Mutual respect and thick skin are the key (IMHO).


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teju  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:51
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Never Nov 5, 2005

Derek Gill Franßen wrote:

I take it that you interpret regularly (I don't) and - without meaning any disrespect whatsoever - I would like to ask if you will also quit interpreting when a judge declares a mistrial based on your false interpretation sometime in the future. I hope not.

Mutual respect and thick skin are the key (IMHO).



To answer your question, I would never quit interpreting. I have a thick skin for things like that. I've also had to correct the record when I've realized that I interpreted something wrong, it's happened to me once or twice. It's my opinion that correcting the record doesn't make the interpreter look bad, but quite the contrary. I think it takes guts to speak up, when it would be so much easier to keep going when no one notices. It also lets everyone know that you take your oath to interpret faithfully seriously.
We cannot be shy in this line of work, but there are a few of us who take this sort of thing to heart, and it has a deep impact on their confidence. And this person was one of them. I would think that with time, he'll get back in the trenches. I hope so.


[Edited at 2005-11-06 01:18]


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