Today we welcome guest blogger Sabine Michael.  Sabine was born and raised in Germany. She has the equivalent of a Masters Degree in Translation from the University of Mainz at Germersheim for Spanish and English (Diplom-Uebersetzer) and worked as a sworn translator and interpreter for the German Courts and as staff interpreter for the U.S. Army Military Police. She moved to the United States in 1990 and has been employed since 1995 as the supervising court interpreter and coordinator of court interpreter services at the Pinal County Superior Court in Florence, Arizona.  She is a 2003 graduate of the Agnese Haury Institute for Court Interpretation in Tucson, Arizona. Her experience includes being a trainer of court interpreters and co-hosting educational sessions for new judges at the Arizona New Judges Orientation in 2004, 2005 and 2007. In 2002, she became a United States Citizen. She is a certified interpreter for the Spanish language in the State of Nevada, a member of the Arizona Court Interpreters Association, ATA, and NAJIT. She is currently the Chair of the NAJIT Bench and Bar Committee. – Kevin


The call came quite unexpectedly – a request to present on interpreter matters before an audience
of juvenile law attorneys.

Months ago, a private attorney who had practiced at the Superior Court I work at in Arizona, had been provided a Hungarian interpreter for her Domestic Relations hearing. After the events were all done and the case settled, she expressed her thanks for the coordination efforts and we started talking about her experience. One thing led to another, and after some discussion about cultural differences, the fact that this case was her first using an interpreter, and the deplorable lack of good training opportunities regarding working with interpreters, I gave her my card and told her about our work at NAJIT in putting together a power point to educate the bar on working with interpreters.

Several months later after this conversation in the hallway of the courthouse, I got this call asking me to
present at the State Bar Offices in Phoenix, Arizona. After settling on date and time and length of presentation (they were contemplating on about an hour, hour-and-a half), I prepared myself and the presentation for its first test-run
since the inception of the NAJIT Bench and Bar Committee a few years ago.

Since there was no cost involved for the State Bar – the Presentation can be used by any NAJIT member as long as it is for non-remunerative purposes – and after the selection committee for the CLE section had reviewed and approved the slides ahead of time, I was welcomed with open arms and a nice cold bottle of water after an hour-long drive in early September when the temperatures were still in the low 100s.

The conference room was nicely appointed with a large screen which already showed the cover slide with
the NAJIT logo in the blue and yellow colors of the organization, I was impressed with their preparations and the fact that the Power Point had been preloaded and the laser pointer was ready to go. I tested it out just to get
the hang of it and we waited for the Saturday morning crowd to trickle in. One of the unexpected surprises was that one of the juvenile court staff attorneys from my court was also in attendance, so I felt right at home. There were about
13 to 15 people, some of whom were attending via speaker-phone.

Preparation is key in getting the slides with the most important topics covered right off the bat without getting hung up on the details. So I had worked with the slides at home using my trusted old kitchen timer and my cell phone clock function to time myself and to determine how much material I could cover in an hour. The fact that the conference room had a clock right at my eye level on the opposite side of the room was fabulous. Nothing worse than a presenter who runs over the allotted time.

As my target audience all practiced in the juvenile field, I quickly tried to get an idea of how many worked in juvenile delinquency and who covered dependency matters so that I could tailor the presentation a bit more towards those angles in the examples from the field that I was providing.

The Power Point covers a wide variety of topics, both for quite experienced attorneys or law students, and since my audience that morning consisted of mostly experienced professionals, I just skimmed over some of the earlier slides which talk about the right to an interpreter and due process. Another couple of slides I touched on in passing only
are the ones dealing with federal certification and state requirements, since none of my audience that morning practices in Federal Court nor does my State have certification requirements yet for spoken languages. Yes – there are still
States like that out there……

The slide about interpreting and translating generated a few questions – most everybody still wants to call us ‘translator’, so we spent a few moments on that slide. On the code of Ethics I mainly highlighted the Confidentiality, discussing the attorney-client privilege and possible areas of conflict.

The Best Practices Slide under “Qualifications and Standards of Practice” got some coverage since I was dealing with juvenile law attorneys and unfortunately in past years I had seen some attorneys relying on the older (or younger!) sibling to interpret for mom or dad in an attorney-client interview, a practice I explained to be full of pitfalls and dangers and something to be avoided at all cost.

The Direct Speech and Witness Preparation slides were covered quite in depth with questions from the audience. The section on Strategies Part I and Part II generated a quite lively discussion since most of my participants had some interesting stories to offer and were interested in hearing about cultural differences and their impact on the attorney-client relations.

Arizona has a specific section in the State Statutes requiring ASL interpreters to be licensed, so I addressed those aspects (citing the relevant statutes) as well as the ADA regarding deaf persons coming before the court.

After some discussion about the interpreter errors (yes, we do make mistakes) and some examples from my 18 years of experience working in US courts, we touched on appeal issues and the rather large list of resources and case law.

Time flew but the participants had questions and comments so we ran a bit over the 1 hour 15 minutes I had set for myself. In no time, I was done and received a warm round of applause, collected my script and left the premises.

A few days later, I received a lovely email from the attorney who had suggested me as a presenter, stating that everyone in attendance had loved the presentation since it wasn’t read verbatim from the slides and provided anecdotal references to illustrate some points. The attorney from my court told me the same the following Monday
when I interpreted for one of her clients’ parents in Juvenile court.

Here are my suggestions for a successful presentation:

-Prepare for your target audience.

-Not all slides are of equal interest or applicability for your particular audience.

-Use the script (available from HQ) if you feel you need more information to flesh out particular slides or for helpful hints in preparing your commentary.

-Have a plan to present the key elements for your specific audience in the allotted time slot.

-Inject some humor.

-Do not be afraid. You know more about the subject matter in this case than your audience.

The Bench and Bar Committee has worked tirelessly over the years to bring you the presentations that are up on the NAJIT website to use for education of attorneys and judges.  Approach the professionals in your court or in your area regarding a CLE training opportunity for them that is free of charge and you can get the message out on how to work with interpreters in and out of court. The benefit from this experience will be a better work environment for counsel, interpreters and the public we serve as interpreters.


  1. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for all that interesting information. I still get lawyers and judges who do things like say to me, “Ask him how he wants to plead.”
    So I am really interested in the power point. Can you tell us more about how we can get access to it?

  2. Sabine Michael says:

    to find the PP for the bar (and Bench) please go to the Najit website, hover over ‘advocacy’, click on ‘bench and bar’ and there you can see both presentations.
    Good luck!

  3. Lorie says:

    I always used to read piece of writing in news papers but now as I am a user of internet therefore from now I
    am using net for articles, thanks to web.

  4. Howdy! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be
    ok. I’m definitely enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

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