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Legal Interpreters on the Stand: Tips for a Smooth Trial

Posted by Michael Felger on Mon, Mar 26, 2012 @ 11:04 AM

gavelImagine:  Your trial is approaching, and you have a critical eyewitness to the events that will determine the guilt or innocence of your client.  This witness knows all of the salient facts about the situation, including what time it was, what happened and who was present for how long.  The only problem is the person doesn’t speak English.

Luckily this is a problem with a solution – a legal interpreter.  Effective legal interpreting is an invaluable resource, as it can mean the difference between winning and losing the case; it also plays a pivotal role in your effectiveness at serving your clients to the very best of your ability. When working with a court interpreter, use the following tips to ensure that your witness is able to communicate effectively with the court.

    • Have your witness meet with the legal interpreter before the trial.  This gives you a chance to explain the interpreter’s role and let the interpreter get used to the speaking pattern, accent or dialect of the witness
    • Speak to the witness, not the interpreter, as if the court interpreter were not there.  This helps keep both the questions and answers brief and specific
    • Remind your witness not to interrupt the interpreter, even if they understood the question
    • Have your witness practice speaking loudly, clearly and directly to the judge or jury – not to the court interpreter.  This is important in any trial, but even more so when legal interpreting is involved.

[ Photo by: bloomsberries, on Flickr, via CC License ]

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