25 Oct A TNO Double Header
This week we bring two posts for your delight. Changes on the Board and professional assertiveness by standing up for what is right are always good things to share with our members. Enjoy.
Giovanna Lester, CT
Changes on the Board
There has been a change in leadership in the Board of Directors. We have all been notified, but in the off chance that one of our members may have missed the notice sent by our new Chair, we have reproduced it below.
Dear NAJIT members:
On 10/17/19 I was voted as the new Chair of the Board of Directors.
It is an honor that comes with important duties that I take seriously. I pledge to do my best to lead the association to better fulfills its stated mission during this transition.
At the same meeting, two other appointments were also voted by the Board: Andy Benzo as Chair of the Bylaws and Governance Committee and Sandra Dejeux as Chair of the Bench and Bar Committee. We congratulate them on their new role and promise to empower their committees by facilitating their initiatives.
We are grateful for the support of many and thank all who continue to help us while extending an invitation to existing and prospective members to join in as volunteers to help NAJIT’s advancement in this next phase of its history.
Armando Ezquerra Hasbun
Chair of the NAJIT Board of Directors
Standing Up For What Is Right
By Heather Hayes © 2019
I thought I’d share this letter I wrote to a TN-state court judge a couple of years ago. It came up on my computer in a search. Judge ORDERED my colleague and me to interpret a video recording in real-time. I refused. My colleague (submissive and a scaredy-cat) complied. I left the courtroom while it was happening. Of course, I reported it to the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (TNAOC) and nothing was done about it. Oh, yeah, except that I probably got blacklisted.
Here is what I wrote:
I doubt that Your Honor will read this letter, or consider its contents, but I thought it worth a try.
Given that the principal exhibit in this trial was the video recording of the traffic stop, and at issue was whether the officer’s Spanish instructions were comprehensible to the defendant, there should have been a bilingual forensic transcript prepared for well in advance of the trial date.
This could have been requested by the State, the Defense, or even by the Court itself, in preparation for this trial. Since this was not done, and since Spanish is not the language of the court, or of the jury, the jurors could not properly examine the evidence. Due to road noise and faulty recording equipment, the real-time audio of this recording was often completely unintelligible—in English or in Spanish.
By ordering that the court interpreters—impartial officers of the court—render an impromptu, onsite interpretation of the contents of the recording, Your Honor placed us in the position of violating the oath of accuracy that Your Honor so diligently had us take in front of those jurors at the outset of the proceedings.
Your Honor also placed us in the position of becoming witnesses, since we were now creating evidence ourselves, and not merely interpreting the testimony of a live individual in real-time.
In response to Your Honor’s assertion that “we don’t have time for a transcript,” I would like to ask if Your Honor believes that our courts have the time and resources for the appeals in such cases?
Please see attached the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Canon of Ethics for court interpreters, specifically (see highlighted sections).
Certified Federal Court Interpreter
TN and AL Certified Court Interpreter”
Editor’s Note: This article was culled from a social media post with the author’s permission.
NAJIT Position Paper “Onsite Simultaneous Interpretation of a Sound File is Not Recommended”
A native of Washington, D.C., Heather Hayes lived in Europe for over 15 years before settling in the southern United States in 1997. She is a certified federal court interpreter and conference interpreter. She learned Spanish and Catalan through self-study and immersion.
Always strongly interested in minority languages, she is a staunch advocate for the use and protection of the Catalan language and culture.
She divides her time between L’Albagés, a tiny village in the olive-oil mecca of Catalonia, and Middle Tennessee—where she sings and plays fiddle in an old-timey string band. She can be reached by email at email@example.com
5 thoughts on “A TNO Double Header”
Thank you for sharing the letter. I have faced this situation twice and even after sharing the NAJIT position paper I have been asked to proceed to interpret it simultaneously. In both cases I complied, not because I am a scaredy-cat, but because I have already been blacklisted by other courts for following our code of ethics. You letter just gave me the courage to prepare myself to say no the next time I face this situation, regardless of the consequences.
Kudos to you, Heather! That is exactly what a true professional should do. Unfortunately, there are too many judges like the one in your letter that consider that interpreters are too expensive and charge too much for doing what many people do, speaking another language. These cretins will never understand our work and the difficulty to perform adequately.
I would have taken a different strategy: comply and DEMONSTRATE how it CANNOT be done. I’’d either have segments repeated multiple times (like we do when we transcribe) to make sure I was hearing correctly, or insert “unintelligible” in my renditions each time something came up that could not be understood. In any event, I would have taken all the time in the world (maybe even take notes from the recording?) just to drive the point home: “next time, have a transcript & translation prepared before trial.”
I totally agree that you should not have given an on-the-spot interpretation for all the reasons you mentioned. I”m thinking if this happens to me in the future, maybe a recess to consult with my teammate would lead to a consensus, or united front from the interpreting team. Maybe the other interpreter lacks training and some gentle guidance would help them to come around. After all, the two-day course that the state provides just to get you to the examination phase is not a comprehensive course and my state does not require CEU’s.
But accepting the challenge with all the multiple requests for repeats and insertions of “unintelligible” just to prove the judge wrong in the middle of a trial would not be beneficial to anyone (especially the defendant).
Best of luck to Armando. He will surely lead NAJIT to bigger and better things. Having a well-known and widely respected leader is always an improvement.