What I Wish They Knew


I’m not the only one who dreams about “I wish that more people who come into contact with court interpreters (for whatever reason) knew that __________” right? So I am asking for all of you reading this to help me. If you were able to contribute to the preparation or training of the following groups, what topics would you include?

  • Non-English-speaking/LEP litigants/witnesses
  • English-speaking lawyers
  • Bilingual (or “bilingual”) lawyers
  • English-speaking law enforcement
  • Bilingual (or “bilingual”) law enforcement
  • Judicial officers
  • The general public

I’m looking especially for things related to LEP individuals’ interactions with the justice system and/or how to work with an interpreter, but if you have anything you wish people knew about other cultures, the justice system in general, that would be great too!

Send us a comment! “If I could teach one thing to ___________, it would be ____________________________________________.”

Here’s one of mine: If I could teach one thing to the general public, it would be that pleading not guilty at arraignment is a formal part of the judicial process (and not the same as denying responsibility).

Your (anonymous) answers (and some more of mine) coming soon!

9 thoughts on “What I Wish They Knew”

  1. Carlos cerecedo says:

    In 2000 as president of ccia, I asked chief justice Ronald George of California to please help us to include interpreting and translation as part of the curriculums in the colleges of law and this request was done in front of 400 professional interpreters….he said….of course…..but unfortunately the judicial system refuses to deal with our issues…..I applaud your desires….but be ready for a very steep hill….Thank you for your efforts from and old interpreters soul….

  2. I wish that attorneys and judges were aware of the differences in the Spanish from the different countries.
    I also wish that administrators and others would realize my need to know for sure for whom I am supposed to interpret when it is a witness. I have had to recuse myself at least twice– when it was a comadre– my daughter”s godmother– who fortunately speaks English quite well– and another situation where the victim was a good friend I hadn”t seen for a long time. They thought the comadre must not speak English, because she also speaks Spanish– another kind of misunderstanding.

  3. Robert K. Brara says:

    Pleading not guilty is from where the attorney picks up the case. It has been a practice since beginning and in this practice even the stand of genuinely not guilty people also gets diluted?

    I think that you are talking of raising the moral standard of the defendants by which the guilty should accept the responsibility and admitt to the charges?

    Secondly, What is generally seen is that the prosecution has couple of added additional charges to ND late the original charge. If one straight away admits the charge then what about allied implications which are mostly dropped during the course of latter on pleadings?

    Robert K. Brara

  4. Kathleen Morris says:

    Please inform state prosecutors (states’ attorneys) that the “witness sequestration” rule does not apply to a team of two interpreters, who are alternating at 1/2 hour intervals, when interpreting for LEP witnesses, during trials and hearings. Both interpreters on the team are impartial, and will keep any information learned during testimony, confidential. Applying te sequestration rule here only handicaps both team members; if they are not both present, during all testimony, their interpretation may be innacurate and misleading, through no fault of their own. Thank you.

  5. Vicki Santamaria says:

    I am waiting right now for the verdict in a trial in which the defense attorney is “bilingual”. If I hadn’t interpreted at the motions hearing I wouldn’t have known anything about the defendant or case. Even bilingual attorneys need to let the interpreter(s) meet the defendant before the trial and let the interpreter know the basic facts of the case so the interpreter can do a decent job. This of course is true for prosecutors too with their non-English speaking witnesses. I had a DA tell me once that I couldn’t see the case file because I wasn’t a party to the case.

  6. Vicki Santamaria says:

    Don’t expect an interpreter to translate voice messages or text messages at the witness stand without any notice. Messages between intimates are notoriously difficult to translate, especially when the interpreter doesn’t know anything about the people, their relationship or the context for the message. The attorney has been told all about what led up to the messages, , but the interpreter doesn’t have a clue.

    Also, don’t accuse the interpreter in open court of misinterpreting (if you are a bilingual attorney). Ask the interpreter if there is an alternate meaning or interpretation for what was said (or written). Just because an attorney doesn’t like the interpretation doesn’t make it wrong. Let the interpreter explain why s/he made a certain word choice.

    1. I have never had to translate voice or text messages, but I have been annoyed by a semi-bilingual opposing counsel at a hearing. All present must know interpreters have been professionally trained to pick the best word.

  7. GLester says:

    If I could teach one thing to LAWYERS is that just because someone can communicate in a language it does not mean they can speak coherently in a deposition, let alone in court!

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