BE IN THE BEST POSITION FOR YOUR DEPOSITION

– By Armando Ezquerra Hasbun © 2017

Depositions can be grueling. Sometimes we deal with hostile parties, long hours without back up, complex subject matters… often made worse by the unwillingness to advance or share information about the case based on the mistaken belief that we are living dictionaries, ready and able to offer a rendition on any technical or arcane topic without preparing beforehand.

But even in this extreme situation there is a way to help you carry out your difficult task every time: realizing that court reporters are our best ally and finding the way to position yourself next to them so that you both can help each other do you jobs better.

Whether you are a traditionalist steeped in accurate note-taking as a way to reconstruct questions and answers for your rendition, or you adhere to the Consecutaneous, that is the practice of rendering questions in English in the simultaneous while interpreting responses into English in the true consecutive mode, you will benefit from sitting next to the court reporter and across from the deponents every time.

What are some of the advantages of being seated precisely that way?

1. You can catch a glance of the court reporter computer screen as s/he types up the utterances in English, including names, addresses, places, amounts, dates and other details which you need not take down anymore. In essence, you perform that part of your task as if you were performing a sight translation, with the added advantage of having all the information visually accessible effortlessly on your part, because it is our colleague who has been accurately taking it down.
2. By sitting across from the deponents, you can look at them directly and therefore you can have a better sense of whether they understood something or not, whether there are nuances in their responses indicated by facial expressions or gestures. Seated across from them, they can also see if you are struggling with a lengthy response and perhaps realize, that they need to pause in order for you to proceed. If the deposition is being video recorded, sitting across from the deponents will ensure your visage is not in the camera’s path, enabling you to do your job without an added stressor.
3. In return for the privilege of having visual access to the information taken down by the court reporter, you can spell out foreign names for them in writing so that this is a win-win situation for them as well.

How do you educate attorneys and others about the need to be seated in this particular arrangement?

By remembering that in that room, you are the language expert and you know better about the technical aspects of your work. And this is one of them: if you politely and firmly explain the need for you to be seated in such a way, you’re unlikely to be denied and you will find it much easier to last longer and be more accurate because you’ll be half as tired as you would be otherwise.

Have you tried this strategy already? How do you feel about it?

 


Armando is a federally-certified court interpreter, a certified trainer for the nationally recognized Bridging the Gap medical interpreter training program, an adjunct professor of interpretation at La Salle University, conference interpreter, grader, lecturer, and consultant in the industry as a Subject Matter Expert. He has spoken at many industry associations to present on the topic of medical interpreting, including the Society for Healthcare Consumer Advocacy (SHCA), the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA), and the Texas Association of Healthcare Interpreters and Translators (TAHIT). Armando holds degrees in Psychology, International Studies and Spanish Language and Literature. He has been published on various topics of interest to the language services profession and, as a recognized thought leader in the industry, is often engaged as a speaker.

 

19 Comments
  • Rebecca Thatcher Murcia
    Posted at 15:16h, 01 December Reply

    Thank you! This was a very helpful article.

  • Susana Gee
    Posted at 15:26h, 01 December Reply

    Armando, So very true and from now on I will definitely press the room to seat me next to the court reporter. She/he has always been my best ally in depositions but I had NEVER even considered sitting next to him/her. Thank you for this sage advice. I have been in depositions that last all day for days with sporadic short toilet breaks and without any back up. I am a stickler for accuracy, and to have the text at my disposal will cut my note taking in half. Yay!

  • Carlota Dalziel
    Posted at 15:36h, 01 December Reply

    Excellent and very true. I always make a point of sitting across from the deponent for the exact reasons you expressed. I will now add sitting next, to the court reporter in order to have visual access to the information they are taking down. . I also spell out all names on my note pad for their benefit and show them at once.

    Thanks Armando!

  • Maria de Villiers
    Posted at 15:42h, 01 December Reply

    Good morning, Armando! I could not agree more with you about the interpreter positioning herself across from the deponent. Besides the benefits you’ve cited, the interpreter may suggest to the noticing attorney to sit next to her, that way the attorney will have eye contact with the deponent at all times who will be looking at the interpreter speaking her native language. I could not disagree more with you about the interpreter sitting next to the court reporter to “peak” into her screen and get information the interpreter chose not to write down or could not memorize. This is an enabling practice that will cripple the interpreter’s ability to retain information and take good notes. What happens when you are in a trial, Eduardo? Do you politely and firmly inform the judge your “need” to sit right next to the court reporter to be more accurate and last longer? It will be harder to get away with it in a courtroom and, although in depositions you may be able to get away with it, the practice will create bad habits that give room to a crippling dependency on someone else’s performance an not your own. Self reliability is any interpreter’s best asset, and self-confidence in language knowledge, note taking, memorization skills, and professional performance makes the interpreter’s rendition a true ally to due process and equal access to justice, constitutional rights that any and all individuals with Limited English Proficiency are entitled to. Thank you for your article, Eduardo! It gives us room to reflect. Best regards.

  • Liviu-Lee Roth
    Posted at 15:53h, 01 December Reply

    Excellent, as usual!

  • Nikolaj Widenmann, CT
    Posted at 16:18h, 01 December Reply

    Thank you for your post. You bring up a valid point in sitting across from the deponent. Ideally, I would want to sit where I can clearly see both the deponent and the attorney who is asking the questions.

    However, this may be difficult for those who like to interpret counsel’s questions simultaneously.

    As for sitting next to the court reporter, I would just comment that while in some cases it might be useful to share information (such as spelling of names), I would not rely on the court reporter’s notes. Although the court reporter’s typings constitute the official record, as interpreters I still think we should base our interpretation on what we personally hear, not on someone else’s rendition of what was said.

  • Gema Aparicio
    Posted at 17:30h, 01 December Reply

    I disagree with the positioning of the interpreter across from the deponent. What happens when the attorney who is not questioning the deponent has an objection and you have to change from consecutive to simultaneous mode so that the deponent knows what is going on?

    • Grasa Barbosa
      Posted at 02:08h, 02 December Reply

      Gema, your question is valid, but during the depositions, everything MUST be recorded, thus, there is no need to switch to consecutive.

      I am wondering in your states if an interpreter has any choice in such setting.. Usually the attorney moving for a deposition has a strategy in mind and the last thing the attorney consider if the position of the interpreter.

      In Washington, where I work, I ask to be a little behind the person who needs interpretation. that way they have eye contact with the person and the interpreter is invisible as she/he should be.

      I have an example…. I worked with another interpreter in a case, and i was brought in as an expert and only to interpret if the attorney needed further clarification, it was on the record the other interpreter was omitting and misrepresenting statements. Sadly, it went one before my eyes… during the questioning…. the atty ask “… what color is the sky” (figurative) the LEP answered “blue”… and later.. the atty back to the question… “you had your hand covering your mouth. so I would like to review….”, the other interpreter — “I a sorry, I had my hand over my mouth?”. I handed a note to the attorney… the atty.. restarted.. the atty was not talking to the interpreter, but to the LEP.. and continued… “earlier you said the sky was green, remember?”… the interpreter, I am sorry, must be when I had hand on mouth, she did not say green, she was was blue… let me check…” … from bad to worse… yes.. depositions goes like that….but worse… the recorder ONLY gets the English words…so, it sounds like it was the LEP… Because I was there, and the sound was also recorded, I was encharged of re-doing it. Needless to say… waste of deposition… Would a position of where the interpreter is make a difference in this fiasco?

      • Grasa Barbosa
        Posted at 02:09h, 02 December Reply

        Correction, switch to simultaneous.. but OK to delete all and not post at all.

  • Flávia Lima
    Posted at 18:06h, 01 December Reply

    I am always delighted to read posts like this with very helpful and must needed advice from a professional interpreter with seasoned experience. This article couldn’t come at a better time! I will change my positioning from now on and will explain it to my client why this is the best approach and hopefully will foster a teamwork relationship with Court Reporters.

  • ANHCAO PEARSON
    Posted at 18:33h, 01 December Reply

    Thank you for the great advice!

  • Gladys Matthews
    Posted at 19:38h, 01 December Reply

    Indeed, court reporters appreciate when interpreters spell or write down names, addresses, etc. for them. Keeping court interpreters happy is very likely to pay off in future.
    Great article, Armando. Thanks.

  • Armando Ezquerra Hasbun
    Posted at 23:15h, 01 December Reply

    Dear colleagues, thank you for your comments. It’s very helpful to have different perspectives in order to expand one’s own. In regards to extending this practice of reciprocal cooperation between the interpreter and the court reporter inside the courtroom for a trial, one would expect to have a second interpreter working as a team, a request that I find nearly impossible to obtain from agencies and uninformed attorneys during depositions.

    In other words, halving one’s note-taking duties while interpreting from the official English transcript of proceedings will result in an deposition interpreter that is less fatigued, and therefore, able to go on for longer than usual.

    But I do not advise to expect carrying out this approach in court, nor to relax one’s ability to take notes effectively. It’s just another tool in our box that is suited to a very specific context.

    As for the need to switch modes to interpret an objection, any positioning is not an obstacle to change gears as needed. As I hear the word “objection,” I instruct the witness to please stop speaking and can interpret simultaneously in a lower tone of voice the objection that is being taken down by the court reporter or go on simultaneously as it’s being formulated.

    Ideally, when there are several questioning attorneys in a deposition, the active one sits immediately to my left, the court reporter sits to my right at the head of the table, and to her right, across from the interpreter and the questioning attorney, sits the deponent(s) and their counsel, while other attorneys sit around the table and switch places as their turn comes up.

    Regardless of one’s take on this suggestion, court reporters share and understand the nature of our role in the process of deposing a witness, since they do with their hands what we do with our voices. Because if this, they are normally more supportive and understanding of the need for a break, or a specially difficult accent on an English speaker for instance, and don’t mind us ‘peaking’ into their screen. One wonderful court reporter once actually gave me a thumb drive for my laptop with a program that would reproduce her screen in real time, so I could at it in my own screen.

    Positioning for a successful deposition shares another feature with real estate: one if the most important considerations is location, location, location.

    Let’s position ourselves accordingly!

  • Gio Lester
    Posted at 23:32h, 03 December Reply

    I have made a point of always sitting between the deponent and the court reporter. The ONE time I chose to sit across from the deponent, it was a disaster! See, there are always instances when the two attorneys will engage in an exchange and I will quietly whisper into the deponent’s ears what is going on, keeping her/him aware of everything. And in that position, I can do so without interfering with the court reporter’s line of hearing.

    That one time I mentioned above, it was horrible! I had to yell across the table and the poor court reporter was not happy. The room was really narrow and for me to go to the deponent’s side, meant the court reporter would have to get up.

    We were not happy with that set up. So, now I always insist on sitting between deponent and court reporter. And I always take two notepads: one for my “dirty” notes and one for clean notes intended for the court reporter.

  • Andrew MEEHAN
    Posted at 14:52h, 06 December Reply

    Good piece.

    There definitely are hostile parties, particularly check interpreters. Many in my language pair (Japanese) who regularly do depositions are considered too aggressive and often shunned by both agencies and their colleagues, resulting in having no other work but deposition work.

    Excellent point about court reporters. They certainly can make or break you if you’re not careful. They indeed are your partner and treating the reporter as your equal has many benefits, including reduced strain on your psyche, which is particularly important when you’re working solo to avoid early onset burnout.

    A refresher for me (perhaps because I take certain things for granted and to be reminded of privileges is good exercise to stay above the fray) is your point on best seating. Good seat position vis-a-vis the deponent does reduce fatigue, allowing you to work longer stretches when you have more comfort.

    I’m always curious about simultaneous interpretation at depositions. As one of your commentators pointed out, for deposition record-keeping, everything must be consecutive so that it can be recorded by both court reporter and videographer. I sometimes do see interpreters doing simultaneous (whispering) but it’s against rules. However, I’ve seen simultaneous happen at not deposition but at arbitration where witnesses may testify but those witnesses receive simultaneous while waiting but definitely never once they step up to the hotseat to offer testimony, and same with trials.

    All counsels present have the right to hear and must be able to hear the interpreter and/or witness in whichever language, and whispering would defeat this purpose; and particularly if this interpreter is the same interpreter from the witness preparation session, meaning this interpreter’s understanding of the case can likely be colored by the strategies and storylines fed to the witness (obviously via interpreter) by one of the law firms in the case and can therefore be tantamount to coaching if interpreter who can be colored by one law firm is not carefully monitored by adversarial counsel.

    You should never depend completely on the court reporter’s realtime notes. It’s a nice crutch to have but you must be careful. Should there be software issues which happens from time to time (not rare), or when the court reporter is inexperienced, the realtime notes will not be very polished so you should be ready to fall back on your consecutive notetaking skills. Some say, you can use tools like simconsec pens, so on, but you are not always guaranteed to be able to use tools like that. Typically, if high profile case then client will often not allow you to bring in and use tools like that.

    I can write on and on about this as deposition is a specialty of mine but I’ll stop here.

    • Gio Lester
      Posted at 15:38h, 06 December Reply

      Interesting comment, Andrew, about simultaneous being against the rules. I don’t get it. I use simultaneous to address the deponent in the foreign language when the attorneys are discussing an objection or what documents each has or doesn’t have, etc. In the interest of time (and my sanity), it makes sense to do so in simultaneous: the attorneys completely forget there are other people in the room and go at it with such gusto, consecutive would not cut it. And I don’t believe the alternative, i.e. leave the deponent in the dark, is an option. Going into simultaneous in chucotage, allows the court reporter to still hear the English clearly and take everything down.

  • Andrew MEEHAN
    Posted at 01:09h, 07 December Reply

    hi, gio. happy holidays.

    i am not completely familiar with your language landscape as i can only speak about japanese corporate litigation.

    the general rule i follow is what the oath bequeaths, that is, i interpret only the question and answer. i interpret the objections and instructions if any as client always asks me to interpret them. as regard attorney colloquy, i skip them because i normally working solo (with aid of realtime and help from court reporter) and i need to preserve my focus through out the day – if they ask then i will interpret the colloquy by sight translation off realtime.

    and you bring up a good point, in the interest of time and sanity if attorneys want everything interpreted they MUST hire the appropriate number of interpreters per day. if they refuse, i strictly limit what i interpret during depositions.

    you also mention about leaving deponent in the dark. oath we take is clear. we are there to function as an interpreter and interpret only what we swear to interpret which is the question and answer. other colloquy is none of our business unless they make it our business. but in my humble opinion, you are too nice. in a business meeting, it’s fine to be nice because your marketing yourself; in a court proceeding you are not and you are there only as an officer of the court. that’s my dilineation.

    • Gio Lester
      Posted at 16:52h, 08 December Reply

      Ha! I never really thought about the letter of the oath. Good point, Andrew. I do not recall hearing the words question and answer in the oath, though; just “that you will interpret from Language A to Language B to the best of your ability”. I will listen harder. Thanks.

      Once in a while, however, a deponent will ask, “what are they saying?” and I have had attorneys tell me to interpret what they are saying, though they were not speaking to the deponent. They may be making a statement to the court reporter or amending the record.

      And Happy Holidays to you too.

  • Andrew MEEHAN
    Posted at 01:10h, 07 December Reply

    (excuse my typos, i’m on my iphone. i see there is no editing button here.)

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