The Couch

The Couch – Only in Florida!
Or is it?

There is a new colleague on The Couch. Read the post and see if you can lend a hand.
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Great Seal of Florida

Florida is back in the spotlight. No hanging chads this time. Just some regulations that go ignored and unpunished until…

So, there I was, or better had been for 5 hours at the deposition, in sunny Coral Gables, without a problem. Interruptions for clarification usually resulted in counsel clearing up his language, while deponents were very emotional, which made for some colorful language and touchy moments.

We broke for lunch, and when we came back, deponent’s counsel was talking to her office and said, “No worries, we have a very good certified interpreter helping us.”

Red flag: Florida has a very strict procedure for dealing with legal and quasi-legal settings. I am not certified and I never implied I was. Also, the agency that hired me knew this. I wasn’t sure what to do. The lawyer who hired me wasn’t present and I didn’t know when he was coming back and the conversation was coming to a close…

Well, I corrected the deponent’s lawyer and all hell broke loose. Even the lawyer who hired me does not want to pay the agency. The agency claimed that the lawyer did not ask for a certified interpreter. 

Has anyone else been in such a situation? What is the right way to handle it? If I made a mistake, I certainly do not want do that again.

So, are you ready to help a colleague out? Got a suggestion? You may want to read this post before jumping in. Use the comments section below.


Check out other topics discussed here and here.

 

12 Comments
  • Helen Eby
    Posted at 15:09h, 23 March Reply

    A few years ago, I was called to interpret for a supposedly medical appointment. The address didn’t look like the doctors office. I asked what specialty the doctor was and they told me it was a medical appointment.

    I got to the appointment and it was indeed an appointment with a judge and they already had a certified court interpreter in place. They told me I was not needed and I should leave. The agency told me to go into the room and introduce myself. I did so and I was not welcome. I was told to leave.

    I went to the parking lot and waited for instructions. That agency was not happy that I had gone down to the parking lot. They expected me to stay in the room against the judge’s wishes. That was the end of our working relationship.

    • Katharine Allen
      Posted at 17:04h, 23 March Reply

      Helen – this is such an interesting story. I know that I often get called by 2 or 3 agencies to fill the same appointment locally – and it’s usually for a workers compensation-related issue. I wonder if that is what happened here? The call went out for an interpreter and various agencies competed – and this agency was trying to maneuver to get paid by sending an interpreter even though they clearly did not win the ultimate job.

  • Helen Eby
    Posted at 15:10h, 23 March Reply

    I must clarify that this happened when I was certified as a medical interpreter and not as a court interpreter.

  • Carlos Benemann
    Posted at 15:45h, 23 March Reply

    I am certified in one language and registered as a qualified interpreter in another language( for which there is no certification exam.)
    I work in California and sometimes other states, both in courts and for outside legal procedures such as Depositions, WCAB, Qualified Medical Exams, etc.
    I have to compete against uncertified and unregistered interpreters. That is unfair because
    1. Uncertifieds do not have to jump through the financial and time consuming hoops of taking examinations.
    2. Uncertifieds do not have to take the expensive and time consuming continuing education.
    3. Uncertifieds get more jobs because they underbid the established certified fair rate.
    MY SOLUTION: If I find out that a proceeding has used an uncertified interpreter in a previous setting, I either decline, or bill double my established fair rate. AndI tell them why. I get away with that because I am the only certified interpreter available within 100 miles. Counsel’s only solution if now they really need a Cert Terp is to pay for long travel time and mileage for an outside area on. In addition I stopped working for any agency (Especially all Florida agencies) that hire uncertified interpreters and/or misrepresents their qualifications.
    I will not work for any proceeding in which Language Line has been hired before calling me for availability. Etc, etc.
    (53 years experience as an interpreter)
    Carlos (Karlheinz)

  • Alfredo Babler
    Posted at 18:06h, 23 March Reply

    It’s the agency’s “error.” A deposition in a civil case is, in fact, a court proceeding. If the agency couldn’t find a court certified interpreter and/or opted to hire you because you were cheaper, and you had full disclosure with the agency before taking the assignment, and they decided to send you out anyway… oops! I worked on plenty of depos in Florida in the early 90’s, when “duly qualified” basically meant that one had performed as an interpreter in court proceedings and the assignment was completed successfully. Even after the inception of the Court Intepreter Certification Program “Pilot” in 1999, there wasn’t such a thing as a “certified interpreter..” the Feds had always had 3 languages they “certified for” by taking the MELAB and whatnot. They had Spanish (volumen of need), French (the diplomatic language) and Navajo Indian (Nazi Enigma Machine countermeasures? LOL, sry, I’m in rare form today).. They simply had no budget to “certify” linguists in other languages. But again, I digress. I want to say that I wish to applaud your ethical standards because you took it upon yourself to divulge the SNAFU after overhearing the lawyer on the phone., of course. That’s the right thing to do. That’s what you want to hear and, of course, of course… but, as Lewis CK would put it… mayyyyybe, just mayyyybe, you could’ve called the agency first, in private, told them, “the cat’s out of the bag and you need to do whatever it is you do in these situations,” given them a chance to call their client and eat a nice turd sandwich, send a certified interpreter in to replace you, offer their client to pay for all the deposition expenses, get fired, or whatever the outcome would’ve been going that route. And I mean, come on, you either knew or should have known you were pushing the envelope when you decided to take the assignment. In court, it’s called shared responsibility. So, like I said, I want to tell you, “Kudos to you! We need more straightforward professionals like you, etc., etc…” but mayyyyybe, just mayyyybe, you could’ve handled this thing a little less impetuously and, even though you wouldn’t have come out of it feeling like a moral turpitude anti-semi-quasi-super hero non-certified legendary, über honest… did I say super hero.?… in your own mind, things would have been just a tad smoother for everyone involved. And again, it isn’t a “There’s no honor among thieves” analogy I am trying to express here. It’s just that I think, and forgive me if I’m mistaken, that you hung the agency out to dry and jumped ship at the first sign you perceived that you could eventually have to face the music. Loyalty might have just trumped self-preservation in this particuar instance. Maybe not. Good grief! I’m becoming addicted to NAJIT’s blog. This is soooo not like me.

    • Gio Lester
      Posted at 20:55h, 23 March Reply

      Alfredo, I am personally in an interesting position here in Florida. There are only 3 professionals certified in my language and only one in my County. When direct clients call me, the first thing I tell them is that I am not certified, then I provide them the contact information for the certified colleagues, and I also tell them if the others are not available, they can use the Verified Written Declaration.

      Phase one of certification is down; next step is the written exam, then the oral in May.

      Now, regarding our colleague, maybe he reacted instinctively because the conversation was coming to a close. But I believe the right thing would have to be to speak with the lawyer who hired him.

      • Alfredo Babler
        Posted at 22:12h, 23 March Reply

        I hear you, Gio, but if I’m getting the timeline correctly, the lawyer called the agency; the agency hired our patient (heheheh); our patient had his moral enigma upon overhearing a comment the opposing party’s attorney made on te phone; he cracked under the pressure of possibly incurring substantial recrimination if and when someone, anyone found he wasn’t court certified; he turned confidential informant by proxy, or whatever you call preemptively protecting your 6 when the popoo is about to hit the oscillating air circulation device; and the melodrama ensued. A seasoned, experienced interpreter would consider calling the agency that hired him and letting the agency come clean in a more, for lack of a better word, controlled manner. In any event, our couchee would have been “absolved” in the end and the agency would have taken the brunt of the wrath, without having to turn it into what sounds like a Housewives of Coral Gables episode. Heheheh. I’m going to have to get on that couch someday. I have some stories that would make Sigmund go “Huh?!?! Wunderpsycho!”

  • Julia Davis, FCCI
    Posted at 21:17h, 23 March Reply

    Greetings, colleagues. I just want to make sure the obvious point gets expressed: My colleague working in Coral Gables absolutely was correct in clarifying her/his credentials when s/he realized that they had somehow been misconstrued. See Canon 7 of NAJIT’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibilities. Bravo!

    As to the question of how it was handled, if I’m understanding the situation correctly, you felt that you needed to correct the misinformation before the telephone conversation ended, and I don’t understand that urgency. I think I’d have waited until the hiring attorney returned, and then said something to both attorneys at the same time. I’m sure the agency would have appreciated hearing from you first, but then you’d run the risk of them telling you not to say anything, which you could not do even if they wanted you to. So that kind of depends on what kind of relationship you have with them.

    You mentioned that there is “a very strict procedure for dealing with legal and quasi-legal settings” in Florida. Is the justification for taking a deposition prior to certification in that policy? To put it another way, if the attorneys are familiar with the policy, would they know to ask if you were certified, or would it tend to make them assume that the agency would only send a certified interpreter to a deposition? Is the agency aware of the policy?

    Does the agency not want to pay you simply because the attorney doesn’t want to pay them? Or are they giving you another reason that has to do with how it was handled? Just curious, but if I knew it might change my perspective. From what I understand so far, the mistake occurred between the hiring attorney and the agency and you should not be penalized for it. But Depos are like that: all the pressure of a court procedure and no judge to keep things properly ordered.

    Best of luck!

  • Esther M Hermida
    Posted at 15:55h, 24 March Reply

    I am not surprised that this happened, it’s common everywhere:

    LAW FIRM: How did the law firm know to call that particular LASP to request an interpreter? Did someone do an online search and read that they have certified interpreters? If a law firm calls to request an interpreter for a deposition, why would they assume that the interpreter they get is not certified? Maybe the LSP has marketed to that particular office or has provided many services with no issues in the past. This LSP may be a trusted source. Was it the law firm’s error?

    AGENCIES: Why would the agency expect to hear the word “certified”? Agencies should know that all legal matters require a certified court interpreter. Does the LSP website say that callers must specify if they need a certified interpreter for a legal matter? If an LSP does not have one available because of a shortage of that language pair then it’s their duty to disclose that to the client and offer alternatives, and it’s up to the client to decide what to do. Once it’s decided, it must be stated on the record agreed upon by the parties to protect all involved from appealing on that issue.

    INTERPRETER: Is the agency the only one at fault here? What about the “interpreter”? You do not have to be asked if you’re certified, you know you are not, yet you took it upon yourself to accept an assignment for which you hold no credential. Say, you were hired and you were told it was a medical appointment, you show up and it’s a deposition. What then? You disclose it. You state that there must have been a misunderstanding because you were told it was for a medical matter and not a legal one. You will most likely not get paid for it, but believe me, neither will the agency. It’s better to come clean. You did it a little too late, but it’s better than nothing. I’ve no doubt that you are capable of doing that job. If you’re that good you should be taking a test to tell the world that you’re as good as you say you are. In this business, as in many, you only have your reputation!

    This is analogous to that of a medical office. What if I go to my local HMO and I say I am sick, I am escorted to an examining room and someone in a white coat comes in and says that they need to perform a minor, in-office procedure. Later, I find out that the person in the white coat was a nurse practitioner and not a doctor. Should I have an expectation that if I’m sick, a doctor will see me? If the doctor is not available, shouldn’t the office notify me that there’s a nurse practitioner there that can see me, she’s just as good as the doctor, though? I’ve been seen by many nurse practitioners in my life, and sure enough, they are good, but I have been told that the doctor is too busy that day and that nurse practitioner is available, it is up to me, the patient, the paying party, to decide what to do. The difference here is that I am always made aware that I am seeing a nurse practitioner and not a doctor.

    Basically, if we are honest with our direct clients and with the LSP that contract us for work, we’ll be respected for our professional integrity. We’ll be rewarded in more ways than one.

  • Ana Stine
    Posted at 15:57h, 24 March Reply

    Back when I was a contract interpreter (I’m a staff court interpreter now and what a difference having the court’s backing me up makes!) I suffered all kinds of the most ridiculous injustices that most of you my fellow interpreters will imagine! And I was also announced as “certified” many times at jobs when I never claimed to be, and this was back when AZ didn’t offer nor required a court interpreter certification and I was in the process of getting certified through a different state but it was a very expensive and very lengthy process.
    The one thing I had to learn was how to defend myself. I had three little kids to support and I couldn’t afford losing clients over others’ ignorance and stupidity (sorry, it still is a very sore point for me) and not due to any negligence on my part.

  • Alfredo Babler
    Posted at 03:45h, 27 March Reply

    Very cathartic exercise. Everybody likes and wants the truth. Of course. But if no one had ever said anything to scare our colleague into his somewhat diluted brand of hyper-paranoid righteous honesty, he would’ve taken the payment for his work and, whether he believed he got away with “it” or he was just out there trying to make a living, it is likely that no one would’ve ever been none the wiser. Am I promoting “out of sight out of mind?” Of course not. I’m just saying, our patient didn’t simply tell the truth. The way he/she describes it… ahem, that’s what a snitch does to save their own behind. Once the decision was made to exorcise the demon of deceit, the demon of disloyalty and self-centeredness took over and invited an unnecessary descent into a lower level of hell, because that’s how deceit tends to operate. Lawyers will impeach our translations and interpretations (especially Miami bilingual attorneys) as a matter of their normal course of business, regardless of whether they know if they’re right or wrong, or if you are certified or not. We’re not exactly dealing with the most righteous people out there. For crying out loud, you never, ever, ever, ever talk to opposing counsel without the other attorney present ANYWAY. Let alone tell her, “Hey, I overheard you say on the phone that I am certified and I am not, and I never said that, and the agency that hired me is at fault, and you all just duke it out now, because my conscience is clear…” That’s borderline insane (LOL, very apropos in this instance, I guess). Common sense! That’s all. Take your cell, call the agency, tell them you’re having a crisis of conscience and can’t go through with the tacit understanding (and don’t kid yourself, you had one) to ninja your way through this depo without credentials, and then let the chips fall where they may. Let the agency at least have a shot at mitigating the unavoidable disaster. Let the lawyer that hired the agency that hired you be the one that runs the news by the opposing attorney. You just threw her a bloody bone and she’s going to sink her teeth into it and turn it to little pieces to gain an advantage in her case. So, yeaaaay, good for you, you get a medal? Oh no yo absolutely DON’T get any praise.. You actually get a demerit on this one. But hey, we live and learn. In the end we’re simply a compendium of our life experiences. Just keep fine-tuning that moral compass so it doesn’t cause unnecessary grief, hopefully from the beginning. Nothing beats a truly guiltless, good night sleep.

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