Use of Interpreters for Language-Disabled Persons Involved in Federal, State, and Local Judicial Proceedings

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-09-16.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)



OF THE UNITED                                    STATES

Use Of Interpreters For Language-
Disabled Persons involved !n Federal,
State, And LocaI Judicial Proceedings
Judkial          8ranch

Judicial     proceedmgs        conducted   iin Frtglish
must be interpreted          for people who do pot
understand      the language       or who are dea. or
deaf-mute--that        is, people    who are language
disabled--to     protect   their rights.

Court  officials   generally    believe     defendar:ts’
rights are protected       adequately      under exist-
ing laws and        in judicial       proceedings,       al-
though   steps taken       by the courts        to meet
the needs 3f the peop!e”mentioned                  above
vary considerably.

Enough       data was not available           for GAO to
determine      whether     tnere is a serious problem
with    interpretive     service<.    However,.      because
of the different       practices     of courts     in meet-
ihg the needs of people               who are lanyuage
disabled      and because         of the concern           ex-
pressed by persons famritar             with their prob-
lems, action may be needed to make certarn
that the rights of defendants               to a fair trtal
are adequately       protected      by all courts.

GGl-I.77-68           0
                                                                 SEPTEMBER 16, I977


           The Honorable     Don Edwards
           Chairman,   Subcommittee    on Civil
             and Constitutional     Rights
           Committee   on the Yudiciary
           House of Ikpresentatives
           Dear   Mr.    Zhairpan:
                     In rer,ponse    to your June 16, 1976, request,                   this    report
           descri’es       tne use of interpreters             in Federal,        State,      and local
           judicial       proceedings       and problems       experienced        by language-
       s   disabled       persons     involved    in such proceedings.                As agreed       to
           with your Subcommittee             I we did not address           the use of inter-
           preters      in Federal       agency proceedings.             Also as arranged
           with you: office,            unless   you publicly         announce      its contents
           earlier,       wo plan     no fdrther    distribution           of this     report      until
           Septenner        ?ca 1977.       At that time,        we will     send copies         to
            interet:ted      partils     and makr copies         available      to ethers        upon
                  The Administrative     Office      of the United     States   Courts
           was given an 0Fportunity       to comment on this        report.        The Of-
           fice orally     agreed with the facts         presented   in this     report.
           Subsequently,      the Office  provided        us with general     observatior,s
           concerning    the use of court       interpreters,
                                                         Sincerely       yours   s

                                                         Comptroller   General
                                                         of the United   States

       REPORT OF THE                                     USE OF INTERPRETERS FOR
       COMPTROLLER GEN&RAL                               LANGUAGE-DISAPLED PERSONS
       OF THE UNXTSD STATES                               INVOLVPD IN FEDSRAL, STATE,
                                                         AND LOCAL JUDICIAL   PROCEEDINGS
                                                         JUdiCiai  Branch

                  Judicial   FroceeZingc         conduct@3     in English
                  must be interpreted          for people who cannot
                  understand    the language         and for deaf or
                  deaf-mrte    people--in       other    words,   those who
                  are la qguage disabled.            This is necessary
                  to guarantee     fair   trials.
                  GAO did not find enough data on the role
                  and use cf interpreters           in the judicial
                  process    to determine       whether   a serious    prob-
                  lem exists    and, therefore,         is not making any
                  recommendations.         However,     to make certcin
                  that the rights      of defendants        to a fair    trial
                  are adequately      protected       by all courts,     ef-
                  forts   may be needed       to develop:
                  --A    certification         program or other       procedure
                     requiring         that  interpreters,       especially       in
                     trials       involving     serious    criminal     offenses,
                     deQlonstrate         a minimum level      of competence*
                  --Uniform      criteria      for determining          when an
                     interpreter         should be provided e
                  The Congress      should consider       these matters
                  in any legislation       addressing       the needs of
                  language-disabled       people    involved    in judicial
                   Langxge-disabled            defendants       apparently        have
                   a rignk      to an interpreter          in a criminal
                   trial.       Furthermore,       Federal      courts     can ap-
                   point     interpreters       in judicial        proceedings.
                   Currently,        43 States     have statutory          provi-
                   sions pertaining          to court      interpreters.           The
                   scope of these statutes             varies      widely     from
                   State     to State.       (See pp. 5 and 6.)

       l3qLsbfa. won nmovrl, the rrport              i                                 GGD-‘17-68
       C&iFtW*   sh0uM k nofsd twwn.

          --The constitutions            of California        a,,3 New
             Mexico guarantee          to defendants        the   right
             of an interpreter           in criminal       proceedings.
          --New Eampshire  has no statutory                 protections
             in the area of court interpreters.                     (See
             app, III.)
          --Skatutes  in 10 States    limit              coverage     to
             deaf and deaf-mute   persons.                (See p.     6.)
          --Only     J-3 States    extend     their     statutory      pro-
             visions     to include       administrative          proceed-
             ings,    and only 4 of these States                extend
             such coverage       to both non-English-speaking
             peopl. J and deaf or deaf-mute               people.       (See
             P* 7.1
          --Ten States       require      interpreters         for deaf
             and deaf-mute         persons     to be chosen from
             lists     of “qualified        interpreters”         main-
             tained      by State or national            organizations
             for the deaf or by the tour ts.                   On the
             other     hand, State statutes            provide      lit-
             tle guidance        on the qualifications              of
             interpreters        for non-English-speaking
             persons.       (See p* 8.1
          Also,      some State     statutes       apparently      limit
          tour;;     interpreters       to translating          the testi-
          mony of witnesses,            indicating      that an inter-
          preter’s        primary   function       is to serve the
          court.        Many State      statutes     leave important
          issues       unresolved:     most State       statutes      do
          not address          the adequacy of interpretive
          services        or define     the funct>ons         of an in-
          Although      the disparities       among State
          statutes     may res,.lt      in uneven treatment
          toward people who must depend on interpret-
          ers,    not even the best statutory              provi-
          sions can always guar:.ntee            appointment          of
          an interpreter       when one is needed.              Whether
          a statute       is mandatory      or discretionary6
          the court       or administrative       tribunal        ulti-
          mately     decides   whether      to oppoint      an inter-

                      *                   ii

 Pew courts       visited        maintafnel         records       or
 other     data showing          the number of requests
 for interpreters            or the number of times
 interpreters        were used.             Without      this     basic
 data,     GhO could not evaluate                 the    use and
 tale of court          interpreters.             Courts       at all
 levels     generelly        recognized         the need for
 interpreters         when the parties              involved        in
 judicial      proceedings          did not SpeAk            English
 or were deaf,          but    there was no consensus                  on
 the nature       or severity          of problems           these
 people experienced.                (See p* 13.)
 Most court     officials          interviewed’believed
 that defendants          needing       interpreter       serv-
 ices were provided            them.       However , some
 judges,   private        attorneys,         public   defenders,
 And representatives             of community        action
 groups believed          that d$*fendants          had problems
 due to poor interpretive                 services.       (See p.
 DIFFERENCES          IN STE3S         TAKEN    TO
 --------           -----   p-----m---

 Steps taken by the courts                     to help    people
 with language disabilities                      varied   consider-
      ------         guidelines
 Courts     .*risited     had no uniform     criteria     or
 guidelines         for determining      when an inter-
 preter     should be provided D In some courts,
 there was a presumption              of need when the
 accused had a Spanish surname:                in others,
 an interpreter           was provided     when it became
 evident      that     the defendant     did not under-
 stand the court           proceedings.       (See’ pp. 13
 and 14.)
  The courts      generaily       provided     only one
  interpreter       for trials       involving       both
  defendants       and witnesses         with language
  disabilities.         In such      trials,     the    iater-
  preter      also served      the needs of the court
  by interpreting         the testimony        of witnesses.

Several  people  interviewed      believed     this
could jeopardize     the riyhts    of the defendant
and that two interpreters       should be pro-
vided in such trials     --one  to serve     the de-
fendant,  one to serve tile court,         (See
ppe 21 and 22.)
Finally,      some courts      did not provide        an
interpreter        if the defendant’s        attorney      was
bilingualt      other    courts,     however,     concluded
that an attorney         could not adequately           serve
a client      in the dual       role of interpreter
and defense       counsel     and provided       an inter-
preter      in this situation.         (See p. 22,)
-----VP         criteria
Though some courts          had established    minimum
qualification        standards   for selecting     inter-
preters,      Federal    courts  in 8 of the 10 cities
visited,      and State courts      in 7, did not hsiFe
such standards.          (See p. 27.)
            ---     --w-v
Some courts         required         that the entire           proceed-
 ings be translated              for the defendant:             others
had onSy certain             portions        translated.           (See
p. 15.)          Furthermore,           courts     had not estab-
lished      procedures        to guarantee           that    transla-
tions     were accurate            or to provide          a basis
for challenging            their       accuracy      on appeal.
 (See p. 30.)          Several        of those interviewed
believed       that a certificaticn                program       for
court     interpreters           would better          assure      their
translating         accuracy        and general          competence.
 (See p. 29.)          Some believed            also that the
non-English         portions        of judicial          proceedings
should be recorded,                so they could be reviewed
later     for the accuracy              of the translation
given.        (See p. 30.)
The Administrative       Office      of the            United   States
Courts    was given an opportunity                   to comment on
this   report.     The Office       orally           agreed with the
facts   presented.      Subsequently,                the Office     pro-
vided us with general.        observations               concerning
the use of court      interpreters.                  (See app. VI.)


DIGEST                                                                     i
   1       INTRODUCTION                                      L
               Court structure
               Scope of review
                                                       1 .   I
                Constitutional         guaran'tees
                Federal statutory          provisions . I
                State statutes
                Municipal      statsltes
             EXPERIENCED fWDER THE CURRENTSYSTE?i                      13
               Identifying   the need                                  13
               Duties and responsibilities       imposed
                  by th? courts                                            15
               Problems experienced      by language-
                  disabled persons involved      in
                  judicial proceedings                                     16
               Conclusions                                                 23
   4       ARE INTERPRETERS QUALIF:ETJ?                                    2s
               Sources     used to obtain interpreters                     2s
               Qualifications      needed to be an
                  %nterpreLer                                              27
               Lack of system to verify        accuracy
                  of translations                                          23
               Training     provided to interpreters                       30
               Employment, qualificationep         and
                  training     of interpreters   elsewhere
                  in the Federal Government
               Agency comments .
   I        Letter dated June 16, 1976, from the
              Chairman, Subcommittee on Civil      and Con-
              stitutional  Rights, Committee on the
              Judiciary,  Rouse of Representatives                         35

                                                             .                   *

       APPEf:DH)r                                                                    Pa92
             xx     Person8 interviewed                                               37

         xxx        Federa md State St8tUteet             OK rula@          of
                      pLmxduce for provddlq              interpreter8                 36
             xv     Statute8    and rules   pertaining           to    intir-
                      pretcra                                                         40

              Y     Summary of     data on the sources            of
                       dntarpretera                                 0                 43
             VI     Letter dated August 12, 1977,                from the
                      Administrative  Office of the United
                      States Caor te                                                  44

       . .

                                             CEAPTER X

                 In June 19?6 the Chairman,                 Subcommittee       on Civil       and
        Constitutional          Rights,    House Committee              on the Judiciary,           re-
        quested       us to determine        the problems           language-disabled           persons
        experienced        in judicial.      proceedings.             In addition,        we were
        asked to identify           Federal,       State,       and municipal       statutes        deal-
        ing with       the issue of interpreter                 services     to dztermine         their
        scope and effectiveness              in meeting          the needs of language-
        aisabled       persons.       We were requested             also tc identify          any data
        on the availability             of persons        with internreter          capabilities.
        For the purpose of this              report,        the term "language-disabled"
         refers     to those persons         who either          do not speak or comprehend
        English       with reasonable        facility         or whose hearing          is totally
         impaired      or so seriously         impaired         as to prohibit        them from
         u.Iderstanding       or comprehending            the spoken English            language.
          (See app. I.)

                There are 89 district   courts     in the 50 States      end 1 each
        in the District     of Columbia  and the Commonwealth        of Puerto
        Rico.     Each State has at least       one Federal district      court,   and
        some have as many as four.       Al.53,    there are three     territorial
        courts,     one each in the Canal Zone, Guam, and the Virgin
                The Administrative       Office    of the TJnited States          Courts     has
        general    responsibility      for &ministration          of the U.S. court
        system in accordance        with policies          set by the Judicial        Con-
        ference    of the United     States.       The Judicial      Conference       is a
        policymsking      body for the Federal          judicial    system,      but it is
        not vested     with day-to-day        administrative      responsibility         for
        the system.
              Court structure       at the State  and local      level                  was differ-
        ent in each State     visited,     and any generalization                       about it
        could be misleading.
                We analyzed     Federal    and State            statutes      dealing      with    the
        issue    of interpreter      services.
                We also   visited      10 cities    in 4 States      and obtained    from
        varicus    levels     of t e judicial       system such data as was avail-
        able concerning         (1) the problems       experienced      by language-
        disabled     persons     involved     in judicial     proceedings,      (2) how
        the need for interpret.srs            was identified,      and (3) in what ways


                 , ,

          interpreters     were qG;alified,    selected,    and used.      The cities
          included     in our review were:
                Los Angeles, Call;:.                 Albany, N.Y.
                San Diego, Calif.                    New York City, N.Y.
                San Francisco,    Calif.             Dallas 8 Tax.
                Kansas City, MO.                     Houston, Tex.
                St. Louis, MO.                       San Antonio,   Tex.
                The majority    of these cities    have large populations      of
          non-English-speaking     people.    Certain background data was
          also obtained     from various   Federal officials    in Washington,
                We interviewed         about 300 persons involved         in the judicial
          process,   including      judges, prosecutors,        court administrators,
          public defenders,        bilingual   attorneys,     interpreters,      and corn-
          munity action group representatives.               (See app. II.1        In each
          city we visited,       we interviewed      persons at the Federal,         State,
          and municipal      level in an effort       to obtain representative
          viewpoints    on the interpreter        issue.    The opinions       expressed
          by the persons interviewed          provided the primary basis for much
          of the information        in this report.       However,     it is not sug-
          gested that these opinions          in any way represent          the consensus
          of the interest       groups (i.e.,     judges, prosecutors,         public de-
          fenders,   and court ndministrators)           to which these individuals
                 Few of the courts included        in our review maintained
          reocrds or other data on the role and use of court fnterpret-
          ers.     A comprehensive    evaiuation     off :ha role and use of court
          interpreters      or of the problems experienced        by language-
          disabled     persons involved    in judicial     proceedings   could not bo
          made without      this basic data,

    . .

        Among condithone        atisantial        to conducting        fair    trials  itre
that defend;tnts       be fully      aware of charges           against      them and
that they be able to understand                   and participate          in any ju-
dicial    proceedings       in which they are involved.                    Court pro-
ceedings     conducted      in English,         therefore,      must be interpreted
for language-disabled           persorda.         A Federal     statute,       the Rules
of Civil     Procedure,       and the Rules of Criminal                Procedure
authorize     the appointment         of interpreters           for language-
disabled     persons     in Federal        judicial      proceedings.          fn ad-
dition,     most States       have statutes         which provide          comparable
rights    in State     judicial      proceedings.

        A few courts           have held that failure            to provide        intexpret-
trs to language-disabled                 persons    in criminal       proceedings           vio-
lates    constitutional            guarantees.        These rulings         have been
grounded       in the 6th amendment right                of defendants         to con-
front    tiitnesses        and the duo process           guarantees      of the 14th
amendment.           An important        case in this area was United                 States
ex rel.       Negron v. State of New York.'                   The Negron case in-
volved      a non-English-speaking              rndrgent      who had been convicted
of murder.           Of the State's         14 witnesses        who testified          at his
trial,      only 2 spoke Spanish             and their      lestimony       was translated
by a court         interpreter.          The testimony        of the English-speaking
witnesses        was not interpreted            for the defendant           during       the
proceedings,            Instead,      the interpreter         Later met with           the de-
 fendant      and his counsel           and summarized        the testimony          of those
witnesses        in two brief         sessions     during     the J-day trial.
       The defendant       was convicted           and his conviction         was af-
firmed    by the Appellate         Division        of the New York Supreme
Court.     Further   motions       were denied by the New York Court                  of
Appeals,     and the defendant          then filed       an application        for a writ
of habeas corpus        in Federal        District      Court   alleging      denial    of
his constitutlonnl         rights.        The distr.'.ct      court   granted     the
writ,    concluding     that the defendant            was denied his 6th amend-
ment right      to confrontation          and that,      regardless      of the proba-
bility    of his guilt,        his trial       lacked    the basic and

'310 F. Supp. 1304            (E.D.N.Y.       1970),     aff'd     434'F    2d 366      (2d
 C-ir., l970) .

         fundamental fairness           required     by the due process           clause        of
         the 14th amendment.            The district      court decision          stated:

                "* * * In order          to afford       Negron Lis right         to con-
                frontation,         it was necessary          under the circumstances
                tbat he be provided             with a simultaneous          translation
                of what was being said for the purooae of communi-
                cating      with his attorney          to enable the latter            to ef-
                fectively       cross-examine        those English-speaking
                witnesses       to test      their   credibility,      their      memory
                and their       accuracy       of observation       in the light         of
                Negron's       version     of the facts."
         The Circuit      Court    of   Appeals     affirmed       the   grant   of   the   writ,
         adding that:
                "* * * the right        that was denied Negron seems to us
                even more consequential          than the right       of confron-
                tation.     Considerations       of fairness,      the integrity       of
                the fact-finding        process,    and the potency       of our ad-
                versary    system   of justice      forbid    tRat the state       should
                p Jsecute     a defendant      who is not present        at his own
                trial,   unless    by his conduct        he waives    that right."
                 Although      some courts    have found the right           to an in-
         terpreter       to be guaranteed        by the Fedaral      Constitution,         trial
         court     discretion      has generally      controlled     the actual        appoint-
         ment and use of interpreters.                Such discretion,         along with
         differences         in statutory    provisions       as discussed       below,    has
         contributed         to what seems like       a wide disparity         in interpre-
         tive    services      provided    by the courts,

                 There are four Federal     provisions    which relate      to tne
         appointment     of interpreters.      The language    in these provisions
         permits,     but does not requirel     courts  to appoint     interpreters.
                --Rule    28 of the Federal    Rulee of Criminal    Procedure
                   provides    that the court    "may appoint  an interpreter
                   of its own selection      and may fix the reasonable
                   compensation     of such interpreter."
                --The Criminal      Yustice     Act of 1964 (18 U.S.C.    3006A(e))
                   provides    that court-appointed        counsel may obtain
                   expert    or "other"     services   "necessary  to an adequate
                --Rule    43(f)   of the Federal    Rules of Civil    Procedure
                   stateg    that   "the court   may appoint  an interpreter
                   of its own selection        and may fix his reasonable

I I- .
          compensation.     The compensation      shall  be paid out
          of funds provided      by law or by one or more of the
          partics    as the court   may direct    and may be
          taxed ultimately     as costs,    in the discretion    of
          the court."
       --Rule     604 of the Federal       Rules of Evidence      requires
          that    an interpreter      be "subject    to the provisions
          of these rules         (the Federal   Rules of Evidencel        re-
          lating     to qualification      as an expert    and the ad-
          ministration       of an oath or affirmation       that    he will
          make a true translation."
        Currently,       there     are 49 States       with statutory         provisions
pertaining        to court     interpreters.          Moreover,     the State       consti-
tutions      of California         nnd New Mexico specifically              guarantee       z1n
accused the right           to an interpreter          in criminal       proceedings.
Furthermore,        although       appointment      of interpreters         is now
largely      governed      by various        .itate statutes,      courts     of general
jurisdiction        have been recognized            to possess      the inherent
authority       to appoint       interpreters       when the aims of justice              so
require--even         in the absence of a specific               statutory       pro-
        The scope of these statutes             varies     widely     from State      to
State.     Some States       have specific       statutory        authority     for the
appointment      of interpreters        to all language-disabled               persons--
both non-English-speaking            persons     and deaf and deaf-mute
persons --in     civil,    criminal,      or administrative           proceedings.
Other States       have statutes      affecting        only one class        of
language-disabled        persons , or such statutes               may be applicable
to somep but not all,           types of legal         proceedings,         (See apps.
III    and IV.)
        For example,       the laws 02 Arkansas                and Indiana       provide    for
the appointment        of an intrrT*B*,e.-             for all language-disabled
persons     in civil,      criminal          :: ?c.!inistrative           proceedings:
North Carolina        and Rhode Is 8 .' ,--zatuteF,                however,       provide   for
the appointment        of an inte         , a z ftr          only deaf and deaf-mute
persons     in civil'and         crimi*       1     .seedings.         In addition,       many
States     have adopted        rules     ~,rl.~l.:~    ti, the Federal        Rules of
Civil    Procedure      and the Federal             Rules of Criminal           Procedure,
which authorize         the courts        to appoint         interpreters         and fix
their    compensation,        without        requiring       appointment        in any Far-
titular     circumstances.            For example,         Delaware       prGVideS:
                "The Court may appoint   an interpreter      of its own
        selection    ar,d may fix the reasonable      compensation  of
        such interpreter     * * *.'I  (Del.  Super. Ct. Cr. R. 28(b).)

Other State statutes,                 however,        are mure specific         and compre-
hensive,   such as the              following         Iowa atatute:
                 *Every c:erson who cannot speak or understand
        the English         language,     or every person who because
        of hearing,         speaking     or other     impairment     has dif-
        ficulty      in communicating         with other      persons,   and
        who is a party          to any legal       proceeding     or a witness
        therein,       shall    be entitled      to an interpreter       to
        assist      such'person       throughout      the proceeding."
                (I* * * 'legal       proceeding*       means any action
        before     any court , or any legal            action   preparatory
        to appearing       before     any court,       whether   civil    or
        criminal      in nature:      and any administrative           pro-
        ceeding     before    any state      a-fxcy     or governmental
        subdivision       which is quasi--2dicial             in nature     and
        which has direct          legal    im#fcations        to any person."
         {Iowa Code Ann. 55622A.2,             622A.l      (West Supp. 19761.1
        State      statutes       do not always treat              non-English-speaking
and deaf and deaf-mute                pertions     equally.         The statutes         of 10
of the 49 States             with laws providing             for interpreters
 (Connecticut,          Florida,      ;eorgia,       Louisiana,        North Carolina,
Oklahoma,         Rhode Island,         South Carolina,            Washington,        and
Wzsconsin)         appear to limit          coverage       to denf and deaf-mute
persons.          Even in those States             with statutory          provisions
for both classes             of persons,        provisions         for deaf and deaf-mute
persons       often     are rncxe comprehensive,               not only establishing
their     right      to interpreters          but also defining             interpreter
qualifications            and the circumstances              governing        their     appoint-
ment.       Arizona       is a case in point.              One of its statutes               pro-
vides general           discretionary          authority       for the appointment              of
interpreters,           regardless       of the nature           of the language           disa-
               "The court    may when necessary     appoint   interpreters,
        who may be summoned in the same manner as witnesses,                 and
        shall   be subject    to the same penalties       for disobedience."
        (Ariz.    Rev. Stat.    @2-241  (19561.1
Yet for deaf            and deaf-mute        persons    Arizona        requires   the ap-
pointment of            interpreters       in   certain    types       of proceedings:

                  HA.        The court    shall       appoint    interpreters        in-the
        following            cases:
                             “1.     In any grand jury          proceeding,       when       the
        witness         is     deaf,   mute or both.

                     “2.    In any court   proceedirq    involving   a.
      person who is deaf,        mute or both,      and such proceeding                      >
      may result       in the confinement     of such person or the
      imposition       of A penal sanction      against  such person."
       (Aria.    Rev. Stat.    5120242A   (Supp. 1975-19761.)
                              *        rb       *         *   .   *                      ,
              "Whet:     a person who is deaf,             mute or both is dr-
      rested    for      an alleged      violation       of a criminal      law     (
      the court         shall    appoint    an interpreter       prior    to any
      attempt     to     interrogate       or take a statement         from such
      person."          (Arix.     Rev. Stat.      g13-1425A    (Supp. 1975-1976j.j
               “In any proceeding           before     a board,    commission,
      agency or licensing            authority       of the state        or any of
      its political         subdivisions         the hearing     officer     or
      other      person entitled        to administer        oaths shall
      appoint       an interpreter         when the principal         party    in
      interest       or a witness        is deaf,      mute or both."
       (Ariz.     Rev. Stat.       §41-1306       (Supp. 1975-19761.)
      Thirteen      States   extend    their     statutory   provisions    to in-
clude administrative         proceedings.          Only 4 of these 13 States,
however,    provide      such coverage       for both classes      of persons;
the other     9 States     apparently     limit     coverage   to deaf and
deaf-mute     persons.
        Other distinctions   worth noting   in the statutory                    treat-
ment of non-English-speaking       and deaf and deaf-mute                    persons
Statutes     covering       non-English-
speaking     persons
         Thirty-nine        States have statutory         provisions     pertaining
to interpreters           for non-English-speaking           persons.      Many State
statutes        provide     for the use of interpreters            to translate        the
testimony        of "witnesses,"       indicating     that an interpreter's
primary       function      is to benefit      the court.       A Missouri      statute
illustrates          this   point.        .
               "Thecourts   mayr from time to time,          apwint
       interpreters     and translators       to interpret    the
       testimony   of witnesses,        and to translate     any
       writing   necessary    to be translated        in such court,
       or any cause therein,"            (MO. Ann. Stat.    §476.060.)
W'dn?cr such a statute,           it appears         that a non-English-speaking
person who is a party             to a legal         proceeding  may not be en-
titled   to an interpreter           unless         he or she testifies      at the


      proceeding.  Similar         estatutory provisions exist in California,
      Montana, New Mexico,         North Dakota, Ore$!on, South Dakota, and
            In nine.States, the appointment     of interpreters   is
      governed by rules of civil  or criminal      procedure modeled
      after the Federal Rules of Civil      and Crimincll Procedure.
      These rules permit but do not require courts to appoint and
      fix the compensation of interpreters.
              When there ia no atatutory            requirement     for the appoint-
      ment of a qualified         interpreter       and no statutory       definition
      of what "qual+fied"         moans, the courts mUst determine whether
      an interpreter       is qualified       to conduct the needed translation.
      For deaf or deaf-mute pereona, 10 State statutes                     require      in-
      terpreters     to be certified        by a State or national           "Registry
      of Interpreters        for the Deaf" or appointed from a list of
      qualified    interpretera        maintained      either   by these organi-
      zations or by the coUrts.1              For non-English-speaking
      persons, on the other hand, State statutes                   provide little
      guidance on the qualifications              of interpreters;        rather,     the
      adequacy of the interpretive              service is left almost completely
      to a court's      discretion.
              Several  State    statutes  provide for the appointment of
      court  interpreters       for designated   courts or districts.2
      Moreover , several statutes        of this type, perhaps reflecting
      immigration     patterns     of the area, establish     the qualifications
      of interpreters        in terms of specified     languages.    Three
      examples follow.
                      nNo person shall be eligible    to the position     of
              interpreter     who ie not able to speak fluently      the
              English and German languages       and to interpret    each
              of these languages into the other."         (Ky.   Rev. Stat.
              Ann. §28.620 (Baldwin 19751.1

        'For example, see N.J. Stat. Ann. §2A:ll-28.1                    (West Supp.
          1976-1977):  S.C. Code §lO-1211 (Supp. 1974):                  We Va. Code
         557~S-7   (Supp. 1975).

        2For example, see Ky. Rev.            Stat.   Ann.      28.610-28.650         ’
         (Baldwin 1975); N.Y. Jud.            Law 85386, !a 8, 389 (McKinney
         1970); Ohio Rev. Code Ann.            @1903.19,   2301.12   (Page SUPP.
         197517 Pa. Stat. Ann. tit.            17, §§1875t tit.    28 55441-444,
         (Purdon Supp. 1976-1977).


              "The justice      of        the East Boston district      court
       mi%y appoint    an Itaiian            interpreter   for thet court.     * * *(t
       (l4ass. Ann. Laws ch.              218, §68 (Michie     Law co-q    J.g74).)

               "Whenever          the transaction      of the public      business
       of the Superior              Court,  the County Court,       and the juvenile
       and domestic           relations     courts    * * * will    be expedited      or
       improved        thereby,       the judge of the County Court            * * * may
       appoint,       to serve at the pleasure             of the appointing       judge
       or judges,          interpreters       of the following      languages,
       namely,      Italian,         German, Polish,      Russian,    Spanish,
       Yiddish,        Hungarian        and Slavish,     and Greek,    or any one in-
       terpreter         for one or more of the aforesaid              languages."
        (N.J.    Stat.       Ann. §2A:ll-28        (West Supp. 1976-19771.)
 Statutes     covering      deaf    and
-deafzrnute    persons
        Forty-six      States      have statutory         provisions        pertaining        to
interpreters       for deaf and deaf-mute                persons.       Unlike      similar
statutes      for mm-English-speaking                 persons,     State     statutes       for
the deaf and deaf-mute               generally       appear to address           the needs
of the deaf or deaf-mute               person as well as the needs of the
courts.       Georgia's       statute     illustrates        this    point:
                "Whenever    any deaf person is a party                    to or a
        witness    at a proceeding        before   any grand             jury   or in
        any trial     court   in this     State,   the court             shall    ap-
        point    a qualified    interpreter      of the deaf               sign
        ?,anguago to interpret         the proceedings      to           the deaf
        person and to interpret           his testimony."                 (Underscoring
                            *         *        *         *        *

                 "For the purposes           of this      section,     the term
         *qualified      interpreter'          means an interpreter           certi-
        fied by the National              Registry      of Interpreters         for
        the Deaf,      Georgia        Registry     of Interpreters         for the
        IWtZ, or, in the event an interpreter                      so certified
         '8 unavailable,         an interpreter           whose actual       quali-
        iications      are otherwise           appropriately       determined.
        No 'qtlalified        interpreter'         shall     be appointed       unless
        the appointing          authority       makes a preliminary           de-
        termination        that the interpreter              is able to readily
        communicate        with the deaf person              and is abie to

                          accurately        repeat   and tranelate'the           statements     of
                          the deaf       person."      (Ga. Code Ann.          g99-4002(a     and d)
                          Alaska,      New Hampshire,        Oregon,     and Utch have no statu-
                  tory provisions          expressly      authorizing        the appointment        of in-
                  terpreters        for deaf or deaf-mute            persons.       Though Delaware,
                  Maine,     Vermont,      and Wyoming do not have statutes                 expressly
                  referring       to interpreters         for deaf and deaf-mute            persons,
                  they have adopted           rules   of procedure         similar    to the Federal
                  Rules of Civil         and Criminal        Procedure;         the general     authority
                  contained       in these rules        to appoint       interpreters       may be broad
                  enough to provide           for the interpreting             needs of the deaf.
                  The Advisory         Committee     Notes to the 1966 amendment of rule 28
                  of the Federal          Rulca of Criminal          Procedure      described     the
                  scope of this         rule:
                                  -"Subdivision         (bl .--This       new subdivision         authorizes
                          the court       to appoint        and provide          for the compensation
                          of interpreters,              Czneral      language       is used to give dis-
                          cretion     to the court          to appoint         interzrsters       in all ap-
                          propriate       situations,           Interpreters          may be needed to in-
                          terpret     the testimony           of non-English            speaking    witnesses
                          or to assist         non-English         speaking        defendants     in under-
                          standing      the proceedings            or in communicating            with as-
                          signed counsel.             Interpreters          ma also be needed where
                          a witness      or a defendani                tit@
                                                                          eaf.        ( F.R.Cr.P,    281f
                          mph asls' added.)
                  Rule    43(f)     of   the   Federal   Rules      of Civil      Procedure     is    similar
                  in scope,
                         Statutes      enacted      specifically       to provide       deaf and
                  deaf-mute      persons     with interpreters           contain     some major
                  features     that are not included             in most statutes          affecting
                  non-English-speaking             persons.      As noted earlier@           the statutes
                  expressly      providing       f3r the appointment           of interpreters        for
                  the deaf and deaf-mute              persons    normally      adJress     the problem
                  of the adequacy          of interpretive         services      provided      to those
                          Arizona     and Colorado,    for example,      require    the appointing
                  authority       to make a preliminary      determination       that     the in-
                  terpreter       is able to readily      communicate      with the person who
                  is deaf,      mute,   or both.'      South Da;:ota requires         that the
                  interpreter        be acceptable   to the party      or witness       for whom
                  the interpreting         is being done.

                     'Ariz.       Rev. Stat.     ~12-24203)        (Supp.   1976-1977);       Colo.     Rev.
                       Stat.      213-90-202     (1973).


          .   l


                Another     approach     tdopted     by several    States--including
         Alabama,      Georgia,    Maryland,     .Hissouri,     New Jersey,      Oklahoma,
         Penixylvania,        South Carolina,        Virginia,    ahd West Virginia--
         Frovfdes      for the appointment         of a certified      interpreter       from
         a registry       or list   maintained       by a local    or national       associ-
         ation    fcr the deaf.
                 Newer statutes       designed      specifically          to provide        for the
         interpreting         needs of deaf or deaf-mute               persons     tend to be
         more comprehensive.            Several     recent      statutes       governing       the
         appointment       of interpreters        for such persons             extend     the
         statutory      entitlement      to administrative             proceedings.           Arizora,
         Arkansas,      Colorado,     Connecticut,        Georgia,        Indiana,      Iowa,
         Kansas,      Kentucky,     South Dnkota,       Washington,          West Virginia,
         and Wisconsin         have adopted     such statutes.
                 Similarly,      a few of the newer statutes                  direct      that a
         deaf or deaf-mute           person accused of a crime shall                     be appointed
         an interpreter         during     initial       police     custody.        Xoreover,      in
         many instances,         statutes        designed       for the appoint*?snt          of in-
         terpreters         for deaf or deaf-mute             persons     provide      for interpre-
         tation     of the "proceedings,"              thereby      insuring      that    a deaf or
         deaf-mute       person will      be able to comprehend                the entire       pro-
         ceedings       and not just       limited       portions      of it.       A Florida
         statute      offers    an example:
                         "Whenever    any deaf person  is a party     to or a
                 witness     at a proceeding    in any trial    court   in this
                 State,    the court     shall appoint a qualified      in-
                 terpreter      of the deaf sign language     to interpret
                 the proceedings       to the deaf person and to in-
                 terpret     his testimony.    * * *"   (Fla.   Stat.   Ann.
                 590.243      (West Supp. 1976) .)
                  In any summary       of this     kind that is intended           to indicate
         to the reader       the scope of State             legislation,     there   is alway,
         the risk     that some important            points      may be omitted.       Ac-
         coraingly,      detailed      information        may be obtained       by consulting
         specific     State     sta%utes,
                 There    were no municipal            statutes   dealing    specifically
         with    court    interpreters   in         the 10 cities     we visited.


                  Although      both non-English-speaking                and deaf and deaf-m\;ca
          persons      would suffer         similar     hardships      from the lack of an in-
          terpreter      at legal        proceedings,       language-disabled          persons       :end
          to be treated         differently         depending     on the nature        cf their
          disabiiity.          Even in States          with statutory        prcvisdons        covering
          both groups of people,               provisions      for those wk~o are deaf and
          deaf-mute      often      are more comprehensive:               extending      their     right
          to an interpreter            to administrative           proceedings      and pre-
          scribing      qualifications           for their     interpreters.
                  Although     some State       statutes      are more comprehensive          than
          others,       many leave important           issues    unresolved.      For the mr,st
          part,     State   statutes      do not add 1.27~5 the qualifications            of in-
          terpreters       and seldom define           the functions       and scope of
          services       to be provided        by them.       Though some statutes        appear
          to be designed         to facilitate         the language-disabled         person-'5
          understanding        of the proceedings,            others    appear to be designed
          mainly      for the benefit        of the court.
                  The existence      of a statutory      or constitutional           provision
          does not guarantee         that an interpreter       will     be appointed         in
          every case where a need exists.              hhether      a statute      is manda-
          to,7 or discretionary,          the ccurt    or ?dminiatrctive           tribunal
          decides    whether     an interpreter     is needed,        Interpreters          may
          be appointed       mre   frequently     where an unambiguous           statutory
          directnve    exists,     but it if; up to the court           to decide       if the
          statute    applies,


  -.s-   .*

                                                   CHAPTER 3               '
                                    ROLE A113 USE OF WTERPRFTCRS--
                      Interpreters       are providing     assistance      to languaqe-
             disabled       defendants      in a variety     of judicial     proceedings,         from
             i.litial      court    appearances    through     sentencing,    but the specific
             services        provided    vary among courts       and locations.        Interpret-
             ers sometimes          have a dual role-      that of serving       both the court
             and language-disabled            defendants.
                      Some language-disabled           persons     apparently        do experience
             Froblems      in judhcial       proceedings,       but data to indicate           the
             frequency       of these problems         doe5 not exist,          We attempted        to
             identify      the nature      and severity       cf these proble.3           by inter-
             viewing     individuals       involved      in the judicial         process     at the
             Federal,      State,    and local      level.      Although      courts    at all levels
             generally       recognize     the need for interpreters               for lanquage-
             disabled      persons,     there was no consensus            concerning       the nature
             or oeverity        of problem5      they experience.
                       m-w-- TNE NEED
                     The need for an interpreter                 may be ascertained            by observ-
             ing or questioning             a defendant       or after      receiving      a specific
             request       from the defendant           or the defendant's            counsel.     How-
             ever,     data showing the frequency                %hat interpreters           were re-
             quested,        provided,      or denied      is either      inccmplcte       or non-
             existent.          Alsop    the informality         of the process          and lack of
             data make it impossible                to determine       hokt or when the need for
             an interpreter           was decided       upon in each instance.               It appears
             generally,         however,      that the need was identified                by a variety
             of persons         associated       with   judicial     and law enforcement            activi-
             ties    prier      to the trial        stage of the proceedings.
                       None of the courts       included      in out review        used specific
             criteria,         such as literacy      examinations,        to determine     if an
             interpreter           was needed.    It appears       that,    in the absence of
             formal      criteria,      there was generally          a presumption     of need in
             favor      of defendants.
                      Examples of how some of the Federal      courts      we visited
             identified      the need for an interpreter    are discussed          below.
             Although     procedures  varied among the courts       visited,       the ex-
             amples given are illustrative        of how the process         usually    works.
                     In Los Angeles         the arresting officer              in     some cases     decided
             that    an interpreter         was needed and notified                 the district      court


              clerk,      who, in turn,      arranged     for an interpreter           through     the
              U.S. attorney.           In other    instances    an interpreter           was provided
              when requested         by the defendant's       counsel       or when the court
              noted that       a defendant      was having    difficulty         communicating.
              We were told that under nc circumbrtances                    had requests        for an
              interpreter       been denied.         In San Diego,       interpreters        were
              routinely       assigned    to U.9; magistrate          courts     handling      new con-
              plaints      and to other      cases invo1vir.g       persons      with Spanish        sur-
                       In Kansas City 2nd St. Louis,                defense     counsels   usually
              initiated       requests      for interpreters,          but if the need had not
              been identified           and met by the time of arraignment,                the magis-
              trate      then made the decision.              In cases there        judges determined
              that an interpretor             was needed,       they often      did so on the advice
              of defense        attorneys,      U.S. marshals,         or the Immigration        and
              Naturalization          Service,     Department       of Justice.
                     Federal     officials        in New York City said that                  judges de-
              cicie whether      to appoint         an interpreter           after     personally     deter-
              mining     if the defendant           fully     understands          what is to transpire
              in the proceeding.            One magistrate            said he routinely           questioned
              defendants       to determine         their     language       dbility.       L'.s. attor-
              neys, defense        coLrnsels,       arresting       officers,         and fudges gener-
              ally   initiated       requests       for interpreters.               Also ir. NeWYork
              City,    Frearraignment         interviews         conducted         by the U,S. attor-
              neys were used to identify                  language-disabled            persons.
                      Generally,      officials     expressing        an opinion    did not be-
              lieve     formal    guidelines      were necessxy          to determine    when an
              interpreter        was needed.       Several    officials,       in fact,   believed
              that a change to a more formalized                  system might be counter-
              productive.         The following       are illustrative         of the comments
              received      concerning        the need for a more formal           system for de-
              termining      when an interpreter           is needed,      such as a standard-
              ized literacy        examination:
                      --It        is   not    necessary    because determining         when an inter-
                             preter     is    needed is    a relatively   simple       matter.
                      --It        would      unduly delay trials       and place     additional        ad-
                             ministrative          burdens on the     courts.
                      --It         would provide     another    cause for appeals      or grounds
                             for    continuance     and therefore     further  contribute     to
                             the    lack of finality       in the judicial    syst6.
                      --Interpreters              PA-C?already       provided   if there   is any doubt
                          as to the           defendant's      ability      to communicate    in English.


     L-       .

            Ljome courts      instruct      interpreters       on their     duties      arid
    responai.biLities         while    others      leave these patters         to the dis-
    cretion      of participating         attorneys        and interpreters        themselves.
    An example of the former              exists      in Xew York City where the
    "Guide for Criminal            Court Interpreters"           sets forth      interpret-
    ers'    duties    in various       types of judicial          proceedings,        includ-
    ing the interpretation             techniques        to be used:
           --"Translate       as simultaneously       as possible        the opening
               remarks   of the judge,      attorney,      and District       Attorney
               and the final     summation.        For direct      testimony     provide
               thorough    consecutive     verbatim     transiations        of e:.cctly
              what is said,      no matter      how irrelevant        or unresponsive
               it appears."
           --“On   pleas   of guilty,  provide   simultaneous                      translation
              of all the District     Attorney's    statements                     concerning
              the charge and its particulars.          @uestions                     ask&      de-
              fendants    and answers are ta be translated                         using the
              consecutive    verbatim  method."
           The San Diego Federal           court     also provides     a list   of rules
    to be followed        by interpreters.           The rules   cover such matters
    as counsel-client-interpreter               relationships,      translation    tech-
    niques   to be used, and physical              appearance    and courtroom     de-
             In contrast,        an interpreter      used in the Houston     Federal
    court      said that     the only instruction         she had ever received
    was to interpret           in the "first      person"    so that the record
    would reflect         correctly      when the non-English-speaking         person
    testified.        A State       judge in Houston      said that he did not im-
    pose any requirements              and left   such matters     to the discretion
    of participating           attorneys      and the interpreter.
            The full-time        interpreter         for a Federal        court       in Texas
    said that he had not been Frovided                     any instructions             or guid-
    ance on the techniques              to be used or the portions                 of proceed-
    ings to be interpretet;               he said this was left             to his discre-
    tion.     Also,     the official         interpreter       for the State            courts      in
    a Texas city        said he had received              no formal     instructions             ap-
    plicable     to the courts          he served and that practices                    varied
    among courts.          For example,          he said that whereas             in criminal.
    courts    he was usually          required       to translate       only durinq            inter-
    rogations      on the witness          stand,      one civil     court      judge required
    him to translate          all proceedings            while   the non-English-speaking
    defendant      was present        in the courtroom.             Similar       differences
    were found in other            courts.


.          i

            Soveral     officials      expressed     concern    that    Borne interpreters
    prformed        functions      that were not within         the scope of their
    responsibilities.             This could ir,dicate       a need for courts           to
    provide      appropriate       guidance    regarding     responsibilities          of
    intarprsteas.            Concerns   expressed     by those officials          follow:
            --A      public    defender     for the Us Angeles municipitl                 courts
                  said that some interpreters                are "practicing        law."      He
                  said that an interpreter,              after      learning    details    of
                  the charge,      may decide       that the-defendant           is guilty
                  and recommend a guilty            plea.       The interpreter         may tell
                  the defendant        that   it would be useless            to ask for the
                  services     of a public       defender       after     the arraignment
                  and that     to do so would be a waste of the court's                      and
                  public    defender's      time.
            --Several     of': L-cials   said that    interpreters      often insert
               their    own conmtents,      provide   advice     to witnesses   or de-
               fendants,      or otherwise      do not act in a professional
               mmtner .
            --Several     officials      expressed concern   that                  some inter-
               preters    may be biased either      in favor of                    the court
               (prosecution)        or in favor of defendants.
           Piost of the court        officials      interviewed      believed       that
    language-disabled        defendants        were provided      adequate       inter-
    prctcr    services    when needed in judicial             proceedings       and that
    problems,      if any, were minimal,            But some judr;es,        private     at-
    torneys,     public   defenders,        and representatives         of community
    action    groups cited      problems       that they believed         prevented
    language-disabled        defendants        from understanding         or participat-
    ing in judicial       proceedings.
              When confronted        by the American            judicial       system,       non-
    English-spcaki,ng         persons      often     have problems           in addition           to
    language.        %any are aliens            (mostly     illegal)       who frequently
    hsve little         or no understanding            of the U.S. judicial                 system,
    are poorly       educated,       and often       are illiterate            in their        own
    P*MplaJC.        These handicaps            make it extremely            difficult         ror
    nt3ny sucnh defendants           to comprehend          the American           judicial
    system-      to understand         the purpose of the various                   hearings        or
    to sppr*?ciate        that they have certain                constitutional            rights,
    such AS the right          to a court-appointed                defense       attcrney        and
    trial      by jury.      Several      officials       interviewed          in California
    s&t*' these as the greatest               problems      facing       non-English-speaking

      Sever&l      juGicfa1       officials           indicated      that the above .fac-
tors ir.sraaEed         the anxieties          of the non-English-speaking           per-
son involved        in judicial         proceedings,            One judge compared
such feelings         to those which might be experienced                    by an Arneri-
can thrust      into      the Soviet        judicial,       system without    having
knowledge     of that        system or the Russian                language.
          Wher areas         of     concern        common to the             various   locations
visited      were
          --differences           in    translation            techniques,
          --variations         in      the     quality        of   translations,
          --the    role of the interpreter        when there  is a simultaneous
              need for interpretive      services     by the court and de-
              fendant(s),   and
          --possible  adverse  effects     from using bilingual                            attor-
             neys as both defense     counsel  and interpreter.
Differences           in   trans?      ation      techniques
        Translations           made by interpreters            in judicial          proceed-
ings may be simultaneous                 or consecutive          and may be verbatim
or in summary form.                In simultaneous          translation,          the inter-
preter     translates          sign language         or spoken material             from one
language       to another         as near in time to the speaker‘s                     words as
possible.         This implies         that     the translation          is also verbatim,
but it could be something                   less than an exact           translation.        In
consecutive         translation,         the interpreter          listens       to statements
of varying        length       in one language          (or "reads"        sign language
if the defendant             is deaf or deaf-mute)             and then translates
them into another              language.        Consecutive        translations         may be
verbatim,        but, where long statements                 are made and then inter-
preted,      the translation           will     likely     be a summary of the
essence of the original                statements.
      GeneraLly     in court     trials,        interpreters       use the consecu-
tive method when translating               direct      testimony     for the court
and the simultaneous         method when translating               for t5e defendant
at the defense      counsel's       table.        Exceptions      were found in Los
Angeles and Sxn Diego where the common practice                         is to trans-
late simultaneously        unless      the consecutive           method is requested
by a judge or counsel.
           It    appears     that  some court      officials    would be opposed to
a strict           requirement     that    a simultaneous     translation     be made
of all          proceedings,      especially     the testimony      of witnesses.

       Two officials          and a report 1 dealing        with this      subject       noted
       that simultaneous          translations       during     certain    proceeding&;
       sl.ch at31 presentation         of testimony,       tend to be confusing             to
       both court       officials      and defendants        because of the difficulty
       of listening         to two persons       speaking      (in different        ltanguages)
       at the same time.            kccarding     to the full-time          interpreter         for
       one Federal        court,    the consecutive        method is easy to learn
       a& is the most effective                and accurate       method for translation
       of court      proceedings.         One obvious      disadvantage         to the con-
       secutive      method is that it takes more time than the simultane-
       o?:s method,
               We noted   disagreement       among some of those             interviewed      con-
       cerning    the need for verbatim          translation.           Those opposed       and
       reports   1 t = on interpreter      services       indicated       that    strict,   ver-
       batim translation         is impractical       and, on occasion,             can actually
       bar true understanding.           The following          rationale       was cited
       for this opposition.
                 --Exact   language   equivalents     do not exist   for             certain
                    loyal  terms,   and, in fact,     many of our  leysl               concepts
                    are unique to our culture        and have no direct                transla-
                    tinn into certain     languages.
                 --Trying     to translate verbatim certain      English    idioms,
                    such es "to be beside oneself,"      inevitably      leads to
                 --Poorly    educated         or illiterate       person& frequently       cannot
                    understand       explicit       translations.       One attorney     recalled
                    a case in which he acted as an interpreter                      for a poorly
                    educated      person seeking           damaqes for the loss of his
                    legs rn an accident,              and remembered     the futility      of
                    trying    to translate          terms     such as "release      from lia-
                    bility*     to such a person.
               Other officials,        however8 expressed    the opinion      that     inter-
       preters     should translate       every word so that     important      facts
       would not be left         out or the translations       embellished.         They
       said that interpreters           sometimes  go beyond strict       translations
       and characterize         responses    or add personal    comments which may
       bias or prejudice          the meaning of what is being translated.

       '"The Language Needs of Non-English                    Speaking       Persons in ReLa-
         tion    to the State's     Justice   System          (California),"        January
         1976, Arthur      Young apd Company.         .
       2"Interpretcrs        Effect  on Quality    of         Justice    for     Non-English
         Speaking     Americans,"    January    1473,         The Institute        of Court
           Management    .D

I ‘I
Variance      in quality
        Generally,       the individuals          interviewed         expressed         ambiva-
lent feelings         regarding      the quality         of the transiations              pro-
vided.       For example,       of the 40 officials              interviewed          in San
Diego and Los Angeles,             34 (85 percent)            bel!eved        that transla-
tion quality        was generally         good.       However,      0fficial.s        in other
States     and reports       dealing      with    interpreter         services       expressed
the concern        that quality        varied     greatly      among interpreters,
and because of this disparity                  there was doubt as to whether
some language-disabled             defendants         receive      adequate       interpreter
services.        Unfortunately,         the degree to which inaccurate
translations         occur cannot       be measured because courts                    do not
maintain      a system to detect            and record        such errors         or to pro-
vide a basis         for challenging          accuracy      on appeal.

        Factors which were             said to impede the ability                    of some
interpreters    to translate              accurately generally    fall                 into one
or more of the following                categories:
        --Lack    of general      linguistic              ability.       Some interpreters
           have trol;ble     translatjng              the foreign:       language    into  Eng-
            lish;   others   have trouble               translating        English   into
            the foreign    language.
        --Lack    of knowledge           of   local     idioms,       dialects,        and street
        --Lack  of knowledge             of   court     procedures         and legal        words
           and phrases.
         For example,         a bilingual           public      defender      for the Los
Angeles municipal             courts      said that          the quality        of translation
of some interpreters               was poor because they lacked                     a sound
knowledge       of Spanish and recalled                    instances       in which he had
interceded         to correct        faulty       translations.            Two judges in
San Francisco           said that        some interpreters              had trouble        being
understood         in English.           Because of this,             judges sometimes            ask
interpreters          to repeat        themselves          or to rephrase          responses
with     a different        sel.ection       of English          words.       We were told
that     in some instances             interpreters            had distorted         or im-
properly       translated         the testimony            of non-English-speaking                per-
sons.        A bilingual        attorney        in San Antonio           cited     a case in
which      the   translations          by a Government             employee,       serving      in
the absence of a full-time                    interpreter,          were so poor that             the
 interpreter         had to be replaced.
          Tn San Francisco,      a municipal     court   judge fluent   in
 Chinese detected         an important    omission     of facts  in an inter-
 preter's     translation     of testimony.        This occurred    in a criminal
          case in which a teenager  was accused                      of assaulting    a man with
          a knife.   Following is a paraphrased                      version    of the testimony:
          Attorney's       que_stion     to     the          Interpreter's     -_I Chinese   trans-
             witness                                            --lation
          What did     he do with        the                 (Properly       translated.)
          &nswer by the witness                in            Interpreter's         English   Trans=
            Chinese                                              lation
          Ke took the knife   out of                         He took the knife   out of          his
            his pocket,  opened it,                            pocket  and showed it.
            and stuck it in my ribs.
          Since thd judge was able to understand            the witness'     testimony,
          he detected     the interpreter's       omission  and instructed      ",he in-
          terpreter    to repeat     the question     and to provide     a complete
          translation.       The process    was repeated    and the full     testimony
          was translated.
                   We were told that          local    idioms,     slang,      and language      dia-
          lects     can have a significant             effect     on the quality        of trans-
          lations.        A bilingual       attorney       in San Antonio         said that the
          Spanish spoken there            differs       from that spoken in Mexico and
          South America.           He said that        in some instances           the same word
          had different         meanings.        A bilingual       State     judge in San An-
          tonio     cited    a case in which the Spanish word "tata"                      was used
          to identify        one member of a neighborhood                 gang.      The interpreter
          translated       "tata"     as "daddy,"         which was literally          correct     but
          did not reflect          the word's       intended      meaning.        As used by the
          gang t "tata"       meant "the boss" or "leader,"                 the one who gave
          the orders.         Because he was familiar              with the word,         the judge
          was able to get the interpreter                    to translate       its actual     mean-
                 The quality     of interpretive      services    being provided   was
          also perceived       as a major problem      in several     studies  of Cali-
          fornia   court    systems.1,2       For example,     the study of these     :
          services    in the Los Angeles Superior           Court system stated:
                           "The heart     of the      problem       lies  in the uneven
                 quality       of work    by the      present       group of interpreters

          '"Upgrading     Spanish Language Interpreter        Services      in the Los
           Angeles    Court System,"      May 1976.
          2"The-Lanauage     Needs of Non-English      Speaking      Persons     in Rela-
            tion to tne State's      Justice   System (California),"          January
            1976, Arthur    Young and Company.


                and the absence: of effective          quality       controls  on          .
                their    work.      Xn some instances,      the work is out-
                standing;      in others,    it is ciearly       inferior,    and                .'s.
                leads us to conclude         that some Spanish-speaking
                defendants       receive  substandard     interpretinlr
         Variance     in   usinq   interpreters
         during   trials
                Essentially,          there   are four different        situations         arising
         during   court      trials      which may require      interpreters.            We found
         that the courts           included    in our  review     responded       differently
         to the various          situations.
                1.    Lanquaqe-disabled           witness(es).        All courts provided
                      an interpreter        to    serve the      needs of the court.
                3C.   One lanquaJe-disabled        defendant.      Courts     generally
                      provided     an interpreter     to serve the defendant,             but
                      there were exceptions        where the defendant's           attorney
                      was bilinqual.         For example,     the practice      of one Stat-,@
                      court     in San Antonio    was to appoint      bilingual        attor-
                      neys to serve in the dual role of defense                 counsel. and
                3.    Two or more lanrme-disabled                 defendants.          Generally
                      only one interpreter            was provided      to serve all defen-
                      dants.     Howeveir , the Federal          court    in San Diego and
                      the Superior       court     in Los Angeles       occasionally        pro-
                      vLded more than one interpreter.                   (When this was
                      done there were usually              four or more non-English-
                      speaking     defendants        or a judge or counsel           requested
                      additional      interpreters.)           Federal    courts     in New
                      York City generally            provided    an interpreter         for each
                      non-English-speaking            defendant,      as did State        courts
                      if interpreters         were available.
                 4,   &anquegu-disabled      defendant(s)       and witness(es).
                      Courts   generally    used the same interpreter            for wit-
                      nesses and defendants.         One exception        noted was one
                      of the Federal     courts    in New York City,         which some-
                      times provided     separate    interpreters       for defendants
                      and witnesses.
                  In the fourth     situation       described  above,    the interpreter
         must play a dual role,            fervinq     both the court    and the defen.
         dant(s).       The interpreler         must leave the defendant(s)         a>d
         move to the witness          stand to translate        the testimony     of
         language-disabled         witnesses.        At such times,    a defendant       is


      unable to communicate               with his counsel           (unless      his counsel         is
      bi.lingual       or versed       in sign language).              Also,     all the proceed-
      ings,      such as discussions             between attorneys           and/or      the judge,
      may not be translated               to the defendant,             Several      officials
      and independent            studies      indicated      that this       could jeopardize
      the rights         of the defendant           and that two interpreters                  should
      be provided          in such trials,          one to serve the defendant                  and
      one to serve the court..                  Some officials         pointed      out that if
      this problem           developed,       the proceedings          could be stopped            so
      that    the defendant           could use the interpreter,                or the defen-
      dant's      attorney       could request          an additj.onal       interpreter.
              Some courts     also try to alleviate         this    problem by appoint-
      ing bilingual      defense     attorneys    to act as both counsel         and
      interpreter     for defendants.          However,    as discussed     below,
      many of the persons         interviewed     believed      that an attorney
      cannot perform      this dual role adequately.
      Bilingual       attorneys     used       as both
      counsel       and interpreter
              Some courts      in all States         visited       permit     or require       bi-
      iingual    attorneys        representing       non-Enqlish-speaking              clients
      to serve as the interpreter               for their        clients.        Yet various
      persons,     including        judges,    defense      attorneys,        A prosecutor,
      and others      believe       that    in a trjal      court     aitLatioll      an attor-
      ney cannot      adequately         serve ds both counsel             and interpreter
      and that this        practice       could impair        the defendant's          ra e.
      This was said to be more prc?valent                   at the local         level. because
      of J.esj formality         and less serious           offenses       at these courts,
      However,     there are no guidelines               as to which proceedings               bi-
      iingual    attorneys       would serve in as both counsel                    and inter-
      preter,    and practices           vary among the courts.
              The general         view of those who did not favor                       using bilin-
      gual attorneys           as both counsel           an3 interpreter              in a trial
      court    situation         was that a defense            attorney         could not perform
      both jobs adequately;                one or both would suffer.                    For example,
      several      officials,         including       judges,      private        attorneys,        and
      an assistant          U.S. attorney,          said it was too much of a burden
      for a bilinc;ual           attorney       to simultaneously             listen,      take notes
      for cross-examination,                and translate          for the defendar.t.               Their
      point    was that a defense              attorney       needs to be concentrating
      on the testimony            of witnesses          and cannot,        at     the Same time,
      provide      the quality          of translation         needed to permit              effective
      communication           between the defendant              and his attorney.
      Other       perceived     problems
              The ccncerns discussed  above were those most                             frequently
      cited    and were common to several   of the locations                            visited.


In addition,        the    following          were cited      as problems     in provid-
ing interpreter           services      for      language-disabled        persons.
       --Need    for interpreters         prior to and after    court                     ap-
          pearances,     such a3 for interviews       by arresting                        offi-
          cials    and jail    personnel.
       --Lack   of understanding     by court                 officials    of      the      cul-
          tural   background    and needs of                language-disabled               per-
          sons e
       --Lack     of    bilingual    and bicultural     attorneys.        Such at-
          torneys       could alleviate      the problems     of pretrial     inter-
          viewing       of non-English-speaking        persons.
       --Unavailability           of legal   documents             in a second           language,
          such as the         conditions   of a formal               probation.
        Courts        at alI. levels       tended to recognize         the need for
interpreters           where the parties          involved     in judicial       Froceed-
ings are language              disabled,      but there was no consensus              as to
the severity           of problems       these persons        have experienced.            It
is apparent,            hokkevcr,    that some of the problems             perceived       by
court     officials         and others       do affect     the ability      of the courts
to provide          language-disabled          defendants      with adequate        inter-
pretive       services.
        Basic considerations             of fairness,        inherent         in cur sys-
tem of justicer           require     that language-disabled               defendants          be
given the assistance              necessary       to assure     their      meaningful
participation           in judicial       proceedings      affecting          their     inter-
ests.       In somtt instances          this    may require       that courts           permit
interpreters          to have flexibility            in translation           techniques,
perhaps       varying     with    the phase of the trial              itself.         In c&her
instances        this may require           appointment      of an interpreter                for
the defendant           even when he/she          has a bilingual           attorney.
        Tnesc basic considerations                  of fairness           require      some
assurance        of competent        interpreti'de          services.          They suggest
the need for minimum guidelines                      to govern the hiring,                 appoint-
ment, training,          and use of court-appointed                     interpreters.             (See
ch. 4.)        Providing       such guidance            for the Federal           court      system
falls     within      the responsibilities                of the Administrative               Office
of the U.S. Courts.               Thr! concerns           of some officials            that in-
terpreters         are not performing             their     proper       function      could be
partly     alleviated        if COuits established                 guidelines         on'the
duties     and.rcsponsibilities              of court         interpreters.            Such guide-
lines     would help insure            that     interpreters          provide       services
that remain within             the scope of their               authority        or responsi-
             The methods wed to determine           whether     interpreters      are
      needed are informal         and vary among court%;          But, in general,
      courts    seem to be sensitive        to the needa of language-disabled
      persons.     Also,    it is natural      that courts    and prosecutors
      want to avoid situations          which might be grounds          for an appeal.
      These factors      probably    act to the benefit       of language-disabled
      defendants,     helping     to assure   that interpreters         are provided
      when the need is evident.
              Although        perhaps      infrequent,        there     have been instances,
      such as the Negron case, where interpreters                            were needed but
      were not provided.               However,        we found no evidence             to suggest
      that standardized            literacy         examinations        or other      formal      guide-
      lines     would be more effective                  in determining         when an inter-
      preter      is needed than the present                  informal,      discretionary           ap-
      proach.         Application        cf formal,        standardized         procedures
      could     (1) add to the administrative                    workload       of the court,           (2)
      be too inflexible             to meet all situations,                and (3) still          be
      subject       to abuse.         A simpler,         more straightforward             approach
      might be for the Congress                    to deal with this          issue through          a
      specific        statutory       change.         For example,        a statutory       provi-
      FLOP might be considered                   requiring      the appointment           of an in-
      terpreter         on the motion          of any party        to the proceeding.               Thi:3
      should essentially              eliminate        any doubt as to whether               inter-
      preters       are provided         when needed.


  t    .
z   --                                                                                       .

                                                    CHAPTER 4
                                     M- INTEPJRETERS             QUALIFIED?

                 How adequate         are the interpretive              services        currently
         being rendered          in courtrooms           across     the United         States?         It
         doesn't      seem that znyono really                knows.       Court      interpreters
         are presently         obtained        from quite        a variety       of sources.              De-
         spite     the importance          of their       services      to a judicial.           proceed-
         ing, court       interpreters           are not always required                 to meet mini-
         mum qualifications            fbefore      they are selected.               Furthermore,
         few of the courts            visited       bad developed         prbcedures          to monitor
         interpreter        performance,           assess the accuracy             of the transla-
         tions     rendered,       preserve        a record      of such translation               for
         possible      revtew,      or provide         interpreters          with needed training
         in courtroom         procedure.
                 The Lack of such standards                   and procedures         does not nec-
         essarily       mean that      the interpreters             currently      being used are
         unqualified        or that      their     services       are deficient.           However,
         such requirements           are essential            to assure       the integrity      of
         the judicial         process.         Without      them, courts         have no assurance
         that     the high professional             standards         required      of counsel,
         expert      witnes6es,      and other         parties      to judicial       proceedings
         are in fact being met by court                     interpreters.
                 Federal,       State,      and local       court     practices       for obtaining
         interpreter         services       vary considerably.               In addition       to full-
         time interpreters             ind thos e employed on a per diem basisl
         courts      sometimes        avail    themselves        of a wide range of "volun-
         teers."         For example,         as noted on page 22, bilingual                   attor-
         neys sometimes            are expected        to interpret          the proceedings           for
          their    clients       in addition        to advocating          their    clients'       inter-
         ests at trial.             Bilingual       employees       of the court          or of some
         other     government         agency8 such as Clerks,                secretaries,        bai-
          liffs,     etc.,     also serve as interpreters.                     In addition#        rela-
          tives,     friends,       or bilingual         attorneys        who happen to be in
          the courtroom          are allowed        to function         as interpreters.             Appen-
         dix V summarizes             the various        sources      of interpreters          used by
          the courts        we visited.          Brief     highlights        of the practices
          used at the Federal,              State,     and local        level    are set forth
          Federal      courts
               Presently  there   are               12 full-time      court  interpreters
          among the 94 U.S. district                  and territorial       courts.       Four            of

these interpreters        are stationed     in Texas,    three are sta-
tiorked  in Puerto    Rico,   two are stationed       in New York City,
and the others     are located       in the Canal 'tone, the Southern
District   of California,       and the Southern      District  of Florida.
        In addition         to these full-time          interpreters          employed by
the Federal         courts,     the Federal      judicial       structure        also r@im-
burses expenditures             for interpreters          made pursuant          to the
Criminal      .fustice      Act of 1964 (18 U.S.C.             3006A) for “experts*'
needed by indigent             defendants      in Federal       criminal       proceed-
ings.      Data maintained          by the Administrative              Office      was not
sufficient        to determine        the number of interpreters                 hired      in
this manner,         but the Office         did report       expenditures          of
$71,333     for interpreters            under the Criminal           Justice       Act    in
fiscal     year 1976.          This sum represents           a 108-percent           increase
over similar         expenditures        made in fiscal         year 1975 ($34,256).
       Per diem interpreters           are also hired        by Federal       courts
pursuant     to   rule 28 of the Federal          Rules of Criminal           Proce-
dure.      Again,    the Administrative       Office     could not provide
data on the number of interpreters               hired     in this      manner but
did report      expenditures       of $15,779     in fiscal       year 1976 for
this   purpose.        That sum rt!presents       a large      increase     over the
$1,443 in comparable          payments     made during       fiscal     year 1975.1
No payments       for interpreters        were reported        pursuant     to rule
43(f)    of the Federal       Rules of Civil        Procedure.
state    courts

      The most extensive                use of full-time        interpreters      was
found at tie State               court    level.    For   example,      in New York
City   alone there were 102 full-time                   interpreters         for New York
State    courts.          Interpreters        employed by State         courts   will
sometimes        interpret        local     court  proceedings       in the same city.
We found this           to be true in Los Angeles              and San Francisco.
City/municipal         courts
       As noted above, municipal     courts                 in    Los Angeles      and San
Francisco    used interpreters   provided                 by     the respective      State

IAs discussed       on p. 27, the Department     of Justice     has tradi-
tionally    paid for many of the interpreters         used in Federal
courts.     In fiscal    year 1977, however,     the responsibility         was
transferred      to the courts,    and $175,000    was appropriated       to
the Administrative       Office  for payment of certain       interpreter
fees under rule 28.         The amount requested     was based on data
supplied    by   the Department    of Justice.

court5 * Other interpreters     used at thi$                         IeveI included b+
lingual    court employees, other bilingual                          city emgloyses, and
Some    5ourco1        used may create
conr'licts        af   interest
         Some courts         have allowed         relatives,          friends,       police        of-
ficers,       and others        to function         as court        interpreters.             such
persons       might serve a court             competently           as impartial           inter-
preters,       but their        position      or relationship                to a defendant
could also make it difficult                    for them to do so.                  Several        per-
bans expressed           this     concern.        For example,             one Federal         judge
felt     that    l&w enforpoment           functions         were frequently             influ-
enced by the need fur expediency.                         While perhaps             valid      for
some law enforcement               purposes,        expediency           is not necessarily
compatible         wit11 the requirements               of a fair          trial.       A U-S-
magistrate         said that he had used law enforcement                            officers         as
interpreters           in "preliminary          matters"        when‘other          sources        were
not available,           despite       the apparent          conflict          of interest.
        Several       officials         interviewed         also expressed       concern
over the       fact     that     many court         interpreters        used in the Fed-
eral system,          includil:q        those provided           for the benefit        of de-
fendants,        have been paid by the Department                       of Justice.        These
officials        felt     that     this     arrangement        created     the appearance
of a possible           conflict        of interest.           They believed,        therefore,
that interpreters               provided        for defendants         should   be paid by
snd under the supervision                    of the clerk          of the court.        This
responsibility            was transferred             from the Department           of Justice
to the judiciary              in fiscal        year 1977, with          the exception        that
the Department             of Justice        will     continue       to pay for interpret-
ers required           for Government. witnesses,
       Some courts             had established    minimum qualification       stand-
 ards for hiring             interpreters,     but Federal    courts    in 8 [and
 State  courts   in          7) of the 10 cities      visited   had none.
         At the Federal           level,       the Administrative          Office      has no
 written    standards,           guidelines,          or procedures      for hiring         Fed-
 eral court        interpreters.            Discretion        for hiring       interpreters
 is left    entirely         to the individual            district     courts.         An
 Office    official        explained         that     the reason    for not having           cen-
 trally    determined          guidelines         or standards      is that they might
 be too restrictive              when individual           courts   need interpreters
  to meet unusual          requirements            (e.g.,   exotic    languages        or pecul-
  iar dialects         of a widely        spoken language).

                             .                   27
       Qua?ifications       ----at   selected    locations
               Written   and/or   oral  examinations      were             required       for in-
       terpreters      by the following    courts    included                in our     review:
              San Dfeyo --Federal         court   and superior/municipal        courts.
              Los Anyeles --Superior/municipal              courts.
              New York City--     Federal       courts   (eastern    and southern     dis-
                                  tricts)       and State    courts.
       These examinations       were required       for Spanish interpreters
       only.     The superior/municipal        courts   in Los Angeles     and the
       San Diego Federal       court    were the only courts    in our review
       which required      per diem interpreters        to pass oral and written
                The basis         for selection        of interpreters           was less formal
       at the other           courts      we visited.        These courts           did not require
       interpreters           to pass any form of written                  or oral examination,
       nor was any other               type of certification              required.        Some per-
       sons used as interpreters,                   such as Government              employees      and
       attorneys,         were apparently           selected       simply because           they were
       bilingual,          which was considered             sufficient.           For example,
       some local          courts      in Texas on occasion             request      bilingual       at-
        torneys,        if they happen to be in.the                  courtroom       when an inter-
       preter       is nccdcd,         to interpret       in cases in which they have no
       direct       interest.          Two attorneys        said they had served               under
       such circumstances                but did not consider             the.nselves       to be com-
       petent       interpreters.            (One added that he believed                  his trans-
        lations       in a civil         case had adversely            affected       the interests
       of the non-English-speaking                    person.)         They added that proto-
        col prevented            attorneys     from denying          a judge's        request    for
        such assistance,               Another     example was cited            by a county
        court     judge in Houston,            who recalled          a case in which a col-
        lege student           from Iran,      who could hardly             speak English        him-
        self,     was used as an interpreter                  for an Iranian-speaking                de-
               Some of the interpreters             hired      by courts       not having
       written       or oral qualification          examinations          nevertheless         had
       credentials        which appeared       adequate        for such positions.              For
       example,       we found that two full-time                Spanish     interpreters
       used in Federal         courts     in Texas had bachelor's                degrees     in
       languages        and had taught      Spanish as a'vocation.                  Another     Span-
       ish interpreter         was a native      of Mexico and had worked several
       years     for a bilingual        judge.     Also,       the full-time         Spanish
       interpreter         used in the State and county                a:ourts    in San
       Antonio       was a former     Spanish     language         radAo broadcaster           whose
       duties      included    Spanish/English          translatiilg.          In addition,
       the two per diem interpreters                most     frequently        used in the
       Houston       Federal   court    also served as cr,nference                interpreters



         for majar       oil    firms , which        positions       we understand           indicate
         interpreting          competence.
         Need    for    certification          of   interprEters
                There was no consensus               among the officials             interviewed
         concerning      the need for certification                   of court     intcrpraters.
         As noted      above, only a limited              number of courts           used qualifi-
         cation    standards     in selecting           interpreters.            However,      numer-
         ous officials       with experience            in court        systems    without       such
         standards      agreed that       certification           or some form of standards
         would help assure         that only competent                interpreters        are
         selected.       Most officials           addressing        the issue,       however,       did
         not identify       any specific          cases which had been adversely                    af-
         fected    by inadequate        interpretation.
               On the other   hand, some officials          voiced                   concern   over
         what they perceived     to be potential     problems                       associated    with
         a requirement   that  interpreters      be certified.                        The essence of
         some of the comments      received  was as follows;
                 -+-Standards  would probably      be set too high and the cost
                    would be excessive.     states    could not afford elaborate
                    competency  tests.
                 --Formal    criteria          could prevent          a client        from    getting
                    the interpreter            desired,
                 --Certified            interpreters   might         not   be available,           caus-
                    ing delays            in the proceedings.
                  Courts       we visited         had not established              systematic        proce-
         dures to evaluate              interpreter            performance.         Generally,        the
         only checks on translating                       accuracy      or the overall         quality      of
         interpretive           service        provided        were the random presence               of
         other      bilingual        persons        in court        or informal       monitoring        by
         court      officials.          For instance,             in some courts         interpreter
         performance           was deemed satisfactory                   unless    complaints        were
         made by individuals                 involved        in the proceedings,              Some courts
         relied      on the presence              of bilingual           persons     as an informal
         means to monitor              an interpreter's               performance.         Court offi-
          cials     at several         court      levels       and locations         said they relied
         on observing           the general            flow of conversation             betweon the in-
          terpreter         and the non-English-speaking                     persons     as an indica-
          tor of the quality               of interpretive             service     being rendered.
         They assumed that               the interpreter              was doing a good job if
          there was no indication                    of a lack of understanding.

         ~sidd; from the informal            monitoring        described      above,
none of the courts             visited     had systematic         procedures       to ver-
i:'y whether        testimony        was accurately       translated,         Official
court     transcripts        show only the translated               (English)      version
of -*ihe proceedings,            and there     is no way8 after           the fact,      to
question       its accuracv.           Proceedings      in some Federal          courts
visited      were electrL,lically           recorded;       however,      the recordings
were not used to check the accuracy                     of translations.             Also,
some court        reporters        used electronic        recordings        as a backup
tt, make sure they had accurately                   recorded      the Enqlish        version
or' the proceedings,             but these were not used to check the ac-
curacy      of the translations            and were not made a part of the
officlah       court     transcript,
          Persons interviewed              on this      su!jcct      acknowledged       that
in electronic          recording         of both the non-English               and English
versions       of the proceeding:               would be .f useful         quality     control
 t.xl     srnce it could be used to make a postreview                           of an inter-
prctcr's       performance.            It appears        that     such a recording         would
,~lso be useful          in srpeals         disputing        the accuracy       of transla-
 t ir3ns.     For example,         in a case appealed              to a U.S. district
i'aurt. lrl -?xas,         a bilingual          law clerk       working    for the court
 found several         translation          errors      made by the interpreter              when
 the defendant         entered       his original          plea before       il U.S.   magis-
 tratc.       The district         court's        decision      to remand the case to
 the magistrate's           court      for a retaking           of a plea was based in
part on the translation                  errors.        Detection      of the errors         was
,%ccidental;        the clerk       who found them was reviewing                   the pro-
cccdinas       because the case had been appealed                        on other     grounds.
        The z\dministrative       Office      has no training      programs       for
interpreters      and leaves this          to the discretion       of each Fed-
eral district       court.    The only courts            visited  which provided
some traininy       to their    interpreters           were the State court         in
NW York City and all court               levels      in San Diego.      Addition-
ally,     the contractor     responsible         for furnishing      per diem in-
terpreters     to the U.S. district             court     in Los Angeles    said
she provided      some training        for new interpreters.
        The training       that was provided             appeared     to be primarily
an orientation         to courtroom         procedures,        ar.d in some instances
it involved       on-the-job        training.         For example,      new full-time
interpreters       in State       criminal       courts     in New York City         are
provided     orientation        in courtroom         procedures       and are required
 to observe     experienced         interpreters         for about 2 weeks.            pro-
spective     interpreters         for the U.S. district             court    in San Diego
iire indoctrinated          into the courtroom            environment      by observ-
ing    court   proceedings        on their       own time.        @rice hired,     they

are given the opportunity              to l,?arn pertinent       slang,     idiomrm,
cultural       ~haracrerAstlcs,        and technical     jargon.        They also
become acquainted           with types of physical         evidence      through
field    trips     to jails     arrd law enforcement       agencies.
       In San Francisco,            mny officials         believed    that    interpret-
er testing      and training          would provide       valuable     procedural
safeguards      to protect        the rights        of non-English-speaking           per-
sons.      The full-times        court    interpreter       for the U.S. district
court    in San Antonio          made these observations            about the need
for interpreter         training       in Federal      courts:
               "Seminarrr   and training           sessions       should be provided
       for interpreters       so that they can have two or three
       weeks of formal       courtroom         training       interpreting         for mock
       trials,     viewing   actual      trials,        learning      courtroom       proce-
       dure,    trnnslatinq      documents,         learning       legal    terms,     etc.
       I believe      these first      two weeks of training                would be
       most helpful."
                               *     *       *      *      *

                "Yearly       training      sessions     are required            so that      in-
        terpreters        can exchange views,            impressions,            interpreting
        techniques8        dirfesences          in dialects         within     their     lan-
        guages,      formal       ehanges~    in the languages,             etc.      Language
        is not static,            but an everchanging             thing.       The world        is
        changing.         Courts       are undergoing         a changing         process,
        too,      There Eo re , interpreters            need to keep up-to-date
        and abreast         of changes in their             field.         This is why a
        yearly     training         session     is desirable."
The former      interpreter        for this   same court      questioned       the
lack of training          programs     for interpreters.         He perceived        the
lack of xch         proyrams     as part of a larger         problem:    i.e.,     not
requiring     the same "professional            status"    of interpreters         that
is required       of judges,      attorneys,      court  reporters,      and other
professionals        whose presence        is required     in court,
---          QUALIFICATIONS,                  AND TRAINING
OF INTERPRETERS timRE-IN                       THE
        Interpreters          employed by the Federal                courts     are not
within      the cognirance          of the Civil         Service      Commission.           However,
we contacted          the Commission           to obtain      information        pertaining       to
the employment6           qualification           standards,        and training        of inter-
preters       employed by Federal              agencies      within     the Commission's
purview.         Tha Commission           differentiates          between     interpreters,
who perform         oral    translations,            and translators,        who perform             .
c-            translations.

              According     to the          most recent   data available       from             thi'
       Commission,      worldwide           employment  of interpreters        and            transia-
       tars by the Government                as of October    31, 1976, was as                  shown
       below.     The Commission             did not know their      geographic               location.
                 Department                   Interpreters                   Translators
                Defense                             17                            116
                State                               18                             19
                Justice                             81                             16
                Commerce                                                           17
                Health,   Education,
                   and Welfare                      20                              44
                All others                           8                              26

                       Total                       144                            238

       The following          limitations        apply        to   the   above   data:
              --Agencies         may employ persons  who translate                       yet are not
                 classnfied        as interpreters  or translators                        (i.e., other
                 bilingual        employees).
              --Interpreter      se-vices    provided  under contract                        are ex-
                  cluded.   For f <ample, most State       Department                      interpret-
                  ing is provid.d      under contract.
              --All     data shown apply only to full-time                  civilian       person-
                 nel and includes          all Federal     departments         and agencies
                 with the following           exceptions:     Members and employees
                 of Congress,        most   of the judicial         branch,       Congres-
                 sional     Budget Officea        Board of Governors           of the Fed-
                 eral Reserve        System,     Central   Intelligence           Agency,     Na-
                 tional     Security      Agency,    and foreign       nationals       employed
             Although     the Commission      has              prepared     qualification      stand-
       ards for translators,        it has not                 set any minimum requirements
       for interpreters.         The Commission                  maintains     no national     reg-
       ister  of interpreters       or translators;                     but its regional    of-
       fices  assist     Federal   agencies    in              recruiting      such personnel.
               The Commission        provides     no training      for interpreters       or
       translators.        According        to the Commission,        there   is no inter-
       ilqency training        specifically       designed    for those individuals.
       The State      Department,       however,    provides     tvsininq     sessions    for
       Its interpreters         and indicated       it allc '7 interpreters          from
       other     agencies    to attend.

t l-
         Interpreters   arc obtained   from many and varied            5ources,
often      in the abeonce of minimum qualification            standards     for
their      eelection.   Once sctected,     there  appear to be no estab-
lished       procedures fcr assessing    their   effectiveness.
        Courts    generally        consider      the quality      of interpretation
as adequat-       unless      complaints        are made.      Since in some situ-
ations     the interpreter          may be the only one present                who can
comprehend       both     the non-English          and English      veraions       of what
is said,      the defendant,          judges,      opposing    counsels,.      and other5
may not be able to detect                errors     made by that       interpreter.
The lack of s record             of both the non-English             and English        ver-
sions of the proceedings                makes Ft impossible          to evaluate
translation5        after     the fact or to resolve            questions        that
might arise       as to the accuracy             of an interpreter's           transla-
          Generally,       individuals        interviewed        believed       that   the
quality       of interpretive           services      provided      was adequate.          The
lack of selection             standards       found at several           courts      does not
necessarily          mean that      the interpreters            used by these court5
were unqualified.               To the contrary,           there    is evidence        to sug-
qest that some of these interpreters                         possessed       excellent     qual-
 ifications.           Furthezmore,        it can he argued that              common stand-
ards for all. interpreters                  (which might be required               under a
certification           program)       may be impractical,            costly,      and even
unnecessary          in some courts.
        However p many individuals                   acknowledged         that      the quality
of service        varied      considerably           among interpreters.                The ab-
sence of selection              etandards,         the lack of procedures                  to moni-
tor and detect           translation         errors,       and the practice             of some
courts     to “mcke do" with bilingual                     volunteers        provide         little
assurance       that accurate           translations          xi11 be rendered.                   The
courts     should strive           to provide         assurances        that      translations
are accurate          because if the translations                   are inaccurate                they
will    hinder      rather      than help understar.ding                of the proceedings.
Thus, there         is a need for           courts       at &rery     level       to develop           at
least     some rudimentary            criteria         fc: selecting          interpreters,
some means to selectively                   preserve       and evaluate           translations,
and some level           of basic       training         in court     procedure         to pre-
vent prejudicial            error     and protect          the integrity            of the judi-
cial process.            Such need is most critical                   in trials          i::volving
serious      criminal       offenses.
        We did not find enough data on the role and use of inter-
preters    in t1.a judicial       process to determine   whether a seri-
ous problem     exists      and therefore   are not making any recomnten-
dations    at this     time.    However,  because of significant

         diffarences     in the steps taken by various        courts to meet the
         naeds of language-disabled       defendants    and hecAuse of concerns
         exprsosed    by some persons,    efforts    may be needed to make cer-
         tain    that the right   of those defendants     to A fair    trinl   is
         AdQquAtely     protected  by all courts.      Consideration     should be
         givan to developing:
                --A      certification           program or other   procedure    requiring
                      that interpreters             demonstrate  a minimum level      of com-
                      petency,        especially       those used in trials   involving
                      serious       criminal      offenses.
                --liniform        criteria    for   determining      when an interpreter.
                    should       be provided.
                  We believe      the Congress       should     consider    these matters         in
         Any lcqislation          addressing      the needs of language-disabled
         pursons     involved       in judicial      proceedings.        For example,        leg-
         i8latlon      manda,<ing.that        an interpretar        be provided       on the
         motion of any party            to a proceeding         should be worded to avoid
         any possible        injustice,       such as a defendant's           attorney     also
         being     used as an interpreter            or th e z.ame interpreter          being
         used for both a language-disabled                   derendant    and a witness
         in the? same proceeding.
         AGENCY       COMMENTS

                 The Administrative           Office   of the United      States    Courts
         WA8 given an opportunity                to comment on this      report.      The
         Office    orally     agreed with the facts          presented.         Subsequently,
         the Office       provided      us with general      observations        concerning
         thu    use of court       interpreters.         (See app. VI.)


            APPEliDIX 3:                              APPENDIX I

             -             A-.L,                         InomI.--
                                   Jum   16,   1976
APPENDSX    I                        APPENDIX   .T

 3%~ Ikmrabla x2lmr I3. Stats
 Juno 8, 1976
 Pq?! 2

          APPENDPX fI                                                  APPENDIX      II

                                 ~&SONS XNTERVXEWED

                                                             Totals    by level
                                Total by                            State/
                                category        Federal             local     Private
                                     Ptlr-         Per-                Per- Per-
                Category        &. cent        pt& cent          gg. cent
                                                                       me- No. cent
          Judges                 87   29       27       9        60    20       -   -
          Prosecutors            38   12       13       4        25     8       -   -
          Pub&      defenders    21       7    11       4        10     3       -   -
          Interpreters           20       7        6    2         8     3       6   2
          Other Government
            employees            89   29       40      13        49    16       -   -
          Private bilingual
             attorneys           11       4                             -      11   4
          Community action
            representatives      28       9                             -      28   9
          All    others          fo   3                w-              2.102
                   Total              100
                                --             97      =32     =152
                                                                       50 55
                                                                       ===          18

         APPENDIX XYX                                                APPEMDSX 1x1


                                  speaking     persons
                               Crim-            Adminis-
                               -I__    Civil    trative
         Federal                Xa       Xa
          Aiabama                       Xa                 X    X
          Alaska                        Xa
          Arizona               X       X                  X            X
          Arkansas              X       X           X      X    X       X
          California            X        X                 X
          Colorado                       Xa                X    Xa       X
          Connecticut                                      X    X        X
          Delaware              Xa       Xa                Xa   Xa
          Florida                                          X    X
          Georgia                                          X    X        X

          Hawaii                X        X                 X    X
          Idaho                 X        X                 X    X
          Illinois              X        X                 X    X
          Indiana               X        -.*        X      X    X        X
          Iowa                  X        ii         X      X    X        X
          Kansas                X        X”         X      X    Xa       X
          Kentucky              X        X                 X             X
          Louisiana                                        X
           Maine                xa       xa                Xa   Xa
           Maryland             X        xa                X
          'Massachusetts        X                               xa
                                         X                 X    X
           Michigan             X                          X
           Minnesota            Xa       X”                X    Xa
           Mississippi          X        X                 X    X
           Missouri             X        X                 X.
           Montana              X        Xa                X    Xa

     APPENDIX III:                                                     APPENDIX III

                                                         Deaf and deaf-

                      inal   Civil   EEEJZ         KZ         Civil
                                                              -a       trative
     Nebraska          X      X                    X             X
     Nevada                   XB                   X             Xa
     New Hampshire
     New Jersey        X      X                    x      D      x
     New Mexico
     New York
     North Carolina
                       ::     ::                   x”            X
     North Dakota      Xa     X                    Ia            X
     Ohio              X      X                    X             x
     Oklahoma                                      X
     Oregon            X      X            *

     Pennsylvania      x      X                .   x

     Rhode Island                                  X             X
     South Carolina                                 X            X
     South Dakota      X      X                     X            X         x     ?

     'l'ennessee              X”                   X             Xa
     Texas              X     Xa                   X             X

     Utah               X

     Virginia           X
                              X                     X
                                                                 xa .
     Washington                                    X             X         X
     West Virginia      X     X                    X             X         X
     Wisconsin                                     X                       X
     Wyoming           &      &                    Xa            XcL
            Total              37     34            45           35
                       -P?                                                 =13

     aCovered by Rules of Civil or Critnfnsl    Procedure.     fn some
      States,     ruleo may be in addition to express statutory

              APPENDIX           XV                                                                                 APPENDIX         IV
                                                          STATUTES AND RULES
                                                      PERTAINING TO INTERPRETERS

              Criminal  Justice     Act                     of      1964      118 U.S.C.            3006ACeEj
              Fed. R. Civ.     P. 43(f)
              Fed. R. Cr. P. 28
              Fed. -5. Evid.    604
              Ala. Code tit.                   7,     13446(l)-446f4)                     (Supp.         1973);      Ala.      R..Civ.
                 P. 43(f).
              Alaska        R. Civ.           P.      43(g).
              Ariz.    Rev. Stat.                   1612-241          - 12-242,             13-1425,              41-1006      ISupp.
              Ark.       Stat.        Ann.      555-715,             27-835,            43-2101.1           (Supp.        1973).
              Cal. Const.     of               1879,        art.      II      914;       Cal.      Evid.        Code      85752,
                 754 (Deering                  1966).
              Cola.  Rev. Stat.  5513-90-201                                  - 13-90-205                (1973);       Colo.        R.
                Civ.  P. 43(f) o
              Corm.'      Gen.        Stat.         Ann.       §17-137k            (West        1958).

              Del,       Super.        Ct.      Cr.        R. 28(b);             Del.      Super.         Ct.      C. R. 43(f).
              Fla.       Stat.        Ann.      990.243             (West        Supp.      1976).
              Ga. Code Ann.                   5599-4001             - 99-4006             (19761.

              Haw.      Rev.      Stat,         0606-9             (Supp.        1975).
              Idaho       Code        59-205          (Supp.         1976).
              Ill.       Ann. Stat,     ch.                38, 55165-11   - 165-13;                         oh.     51,     §547-
                     48.01   (Smith-Hurd                   Supp. 1976-1977).
          .   Ind. Code Ann. 524-22-l-22.5,                                      34-l-+4-3,              35-l-8-2         (Burns
                 1974); Ind. Rules Tr. Proc.                                     43(f).

       I                                                                                                                           .
       \   APPENDIX          IV                                                                              - Amzx‘m

           Iowa     Cede Ann.                55622A.l-622A.6                    (West      Sl;pp.         1976).

           Km. Stat.   8975-4351    - 75-4355    (Vernon                                        Supp.       1975);         Kan.
             Civ. Pro. Stat.    Ann. 960-243(e).                                                                                         .\

           Ky.     Rev.      St&t.          Ann.            5528.610-2~.658               (Baldwin          1975).
           La.     Rev.      Stat.          Ann.            515.270       {West      Supp.        1976),
           Me. R. Civ,              P.       43(l);           Me, R. Cr.           P.     28,
           Md. cm.          ti Jud.              Proc.        Code Ann. $9-114                   (Supp.         1976);       Hd,
             Ann.         Code art.               27,        P623A (1976).
           Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 218,                               4167-68,          ch. 221,              9192-92A         (Michiej'
             Law Co-op 1974)z Mass,                               R. Civ,          P; 43(f),
           Mich,      Stat.          Ann.         $528.1256-?8.1256(1)                          (1972).
           Minn. Stat.  Ann. §§611.30-611.34                                        (West       Supp. 1975-1976);
              Minn. R. Civ. P. 43.07;    Minn.                                    R, Cr.        P. 26.03,  Subd.                   16.
           Miss.      Code Ann.                  8911-7-153,              13-l-16,          99-17-7          QSupp.        1974).
           MO. Ann.           Stat.          89476.060,               546.035           (Vernon         Supp.       19761.
           Mont. Rev. Codes: Ann.                             4093-514,           93-701-6             (Supp.       1975);         Mont.
             R. Civ. P. 43.07.
           Neb.      Rev.         Stat,          9525-2401            - 25-2406           (1975).
           NW.        Rev.        Stat.          S§50,045,            SO.050         (1975);        Nev.        R, Civ,       P.
           P?.J,     Stat.         Am.           5§2A:ll-28              - 2A:ll-29.            (West       Supp.        1976-1977).
           N,M.      Constop              art.        II,      914;      N.M.     Stat.         Ann.      #l6-l-6         (1970).
           N.Y.      Jud.         Law       65386-390             (McKinney             Supp,      197%1976),
           N.C.      Gen.         Stat.           §8A-1        (Supp.       19751,
           N.D. Cent,               Code          5831-01-11             -. 31-01-12            (1976)z         N.D.      R. Cr.         P.
           Ohio Rev. Code Ann.                              551903.19,          2301.12,           2311.14,            2335.09
              (Page Supp. 1975).


 ‘i-                                                                                                                                          .. -

           APPENUIX               IV                                                                      ' APPENDIX      IV

           Okla.          Stat.         Ann.       tit.      22,     81277-280,             1273      (West   1971).

           Or.         Rev.       Stat.         $45.520         (1975).
           Pa.         Stat.       Ann.         tit.     17,     $1875~ tit.  19,                  55797.1-797.5;       tit.
                 28,      55541-444                 (Purdon      Supp. 19761977).
           R.I.         Cen.       Laws 58-5-8                 fr956).
           S.C.         Code        910-12Pl(Supp.                  19741.
           S.D.         Compiled               Laws Ann.           5519-3-7      - 19-3-14   ESupp. 1975).
           Tenn.          Code Ann.               824-108          (Supp.      1974);  Tenn. R. Civ. P.

           Tex. Civ, Code Ann. tit.     55, art.. 3712a                                            (Vernon    Supp.    1975-
              1976);  Tex,   Code Crim. Pro. Ann. arts.                                             38.30,    38.31,
              (Vernon   1966):  Tcx. R. Civ. P. 183.

           Utah         Code Ann.               477-45-7           (1953).
           Vt.         R. Civ.            P.    43(f).
           va.         code       SSR-295,            19.2-164           fP975).

           Wash.          Rev.         Cc&z Ann.            9~2.42.010-2.42.050                     ISupp.    1975).
           W. Va,              Code       $57-5-7          [Supp.        1975).
           Wis.          Stat.         Ann.       S269.55          (West      1973).

           Wyo.          R.     Civ.       P.     43(f);        Wyo.       R. Cr.      P.    29(b).


.     L-
                                                           SUMMARYOF DATA ON THE SOURCES OF INTERPRETEEC                                                           5
                                                    York               Kansas          St.                                 San       Sa2    !Los            San
                                                    City Albany        -- City       Louts      Dallas   Houston         Antonio    Diego Angeles      Francisco   E
                    Fdll-time:                                                                                                                                     c
                           Federal                                                                                           X        X
                           state                                                                                             X        X       X               xa
                           Municipal                                                                                                  X       X               X”

                    Pdr diem:
                        Federal                                   x        X            X           x         X                       X       X               X
                        State                                                                       X         X              X        X       X               X
                        Municipal                                                                                                     X       X               X
                 t Bilingual     employees
                      of Government
                      agency (note b):
                         Federal                                           X            X           X         X              X
              w"         State                                                          X           X         X              X
                         Municipal                                         ::           X           X         X              X                .               X

                    Defendant's    bilingual
                         Federal                                                         x          X         X
                         State                                                                      X         X              X
                    Volunteers     (note    cl:
                         Federal                                           X                                  x              X
                         State                                    x        X            X           X         X
                         Municipai                                X        X            X                                    X                                x
                                                                                                                                    -- -          _-               %
                     a Secretaries#        police     officers,        clerks,         etc.
                     b Relativeso      friends,       dis,interested             bilingual       attorneys,       etc.

              :      c Includes  part-time  salaried     interpreters                         in San Francisco           Superior   Court   (State),      who      c
                       also serve in municipal     courts.


’ I   I   I
    i;         1



                                                         ADMIrdlSTRATlVE      OFFICE   OF                                       YHE
                                                              UNITED     STATES   COURTS
                                                                  SUPREME COURT BUILmNG
                                                                         WASWNGTON.                   DC      a0844

         WILLIAM           P fOLCY
              DIIYO     .I..Fto.

                      Honorable             Elmer        8.    Staats
                      Comptroller        General                   of
                         the    United     States
                      General      Accounting                  Office
                      441 G Street,          N.W.
                      Wasnington,        D. C.                 20548
                      Dear      Mr.      Sta&s:

                               Thank     you for     the opportunity           to review        your    report       prepared
                      in rerponse          to the July     16;1976,          request       from     the Subcotmittee
                      on Civil        and Constitutional          Riqhts,        Committee        on the Judiciary,
                      United      States     House     of Representatives,             concerning         interpreters
                      utllircd        in courts      of the United         States.

                              As you are    aware,                            the      official                position               of         the   Ludicial
                      Canference      of the United                                 States,             as     express=&                   in     1974,     was       that
                      new legrslation       providing                         for translation                                  services  it: courts                        of
                      the    Vnited             States        is        unnecessary.      Report                               of the Proceedings                          of
                      the    Judicial             Conference                   of      the           United           States          5-6         (1974).            The
                      Conference’s                 position was solicited                                       in respect                  of     5.1724,           then
                      pending          in       the Senate.
                                fn response             to         request3                   from        interested                  committee              staff
                   members,              this       agency           did            prepare             an analysis                   of         the   proposed
                   legislation.                  ,m,,JSee            GAO note                  on      p-      45.1

                                Your        report     suggests      that   deficiencies                                          may exist                 with
                      respect           to translation          services      provided                                     in      courts    of             the
                      United          States.        At best,      there    is available                                           currently                a dearth
                      of data           to substantiate          a conclusion          that                                     the quality                 of trans-
                      lation          services       is adequate         or superior.

                                Furthermore,             our experiences                with   multi-defendant            criminal
                      prosecutions             in United          States       District        Courts       indicate      that
                      available          judicial          resources         will        be conserved         and translation
                      servrces         will       be provided          more       efficiently          and economically            if
                      simultaneous             translation            services           are provided         in such cases.

hPPENDIX vx                                                                                                          APPEMDIX yr


                                                                           -         +
                                                                                    __   :,‘   -_

                                             [See         GAO note        be1ow.j
                                            ,__ .’                                                  _a
                                                                                ~.                                                            1
                                                     _’            ‘.          _ ,,I*.
                                                                                               -s                                             ,*

                                                             r . V8&      truly                 ycnlm,

                                            --            .&*;                           p4sf                                 .          :
       .i                                                                                                    r                     ..   ,.    :;:
                                                                 BSilliam E. Foley
                                                                 neputy             Dirixtor

                                                                                         . .             .

                           ,,                                             , .                                        .                       .L
              GAO note:          Material   and atkachmentk      delited     by GAO. The
                                 aatecIa1   deleted   referred     to a draft    bill   on
                                 court  fnterpreters     prepared      by the Adatnistra-
                                 tive Office and an accompanying bntetnal memo-
                                 tandura explaining     key provisions       of such Iegfe-
                                 lation.                                           f-&. *..
                                                                  ; I ..-‘-.. ;,,-.;,,@,b.*
                                                 .: -                   : ;';T,.=&&:&i
                                                                               ‘-. $,@&.~
                                                          ", ,        _      , ;',xt.y.                          .
                                                           _-_ .'                 ;: I~TI
                                                                                       L$.L                              ..

_,                        -
        .'                :_.>