South Carolina has become a larger melting pot since the 1990s. Today in Spartanburg, there is a decent Russian language community. In Laurens, there are many Guatemalans for whom Spanish is their second language. South Carolina has pockets of Asian communities. French and German speakers also abound. Let us not forgot those who are hearing impaired or speak American Sign Language.
This influx brings many rewards to the community, but also presents significant challenges. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination based on national origin. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991 (Title III) protects these individuals against discrimination. So do South Carolina’s Code of Laws. Cooperation between the Judicial Branch, the State Assembly, counties, and municipalities are necessary in funding this necessary judicial operation. “We are aware that the loss of resources may impose an additional burden on local court jurisdictions. However, the opportunity for persons to effectively and meaningfully communicate in court proceedings and to participate in court services is a fundamental principle of justice that must be preserved despite the financial challenge it may create for local governments.”– Washington Administrative Office of the Courts, 2015
These six crucial action items help you become part of the solution.
- Learn the different codes of ethics for signed and spoken
Using a hearing/ASL violent husband to interpret for your meeting with your client/his wife, is not only a violation of the wife’s due process rights, but also a possible malpractice lawsuit against you.
- Ascertain all languages spoken by your client so you can locate the best certified or “otherwise qualified” interpreter.
Lawyers must comply with their professional rules. They must communicate with their client. Someone was in jail whose second language is Spanish. The certified court interpreter relayed this information to the judge. The judge kept asking if the person understood the charges. The person didn’t. Finally, the judge asked, “do you know why you’re in jail?” The person replied, “Oh yes…”
- Family, friends, bilingual police officers, bilingual opposing counsel, and inmates are not court interpreters.
Court interpreters are officers of the court, bound by the Professional Responsibilities of Court Interpreters. If there is no court reporter, does the bailiff find someone in the street who can do it? If a victim’s attorney is not present, does the judge proceed with the hearing? Then why is any old Spanish speaker you can hunt down and bring into the hearing considered an interpreter? It is your responsibility to maintain confidentiality for your client.
Language access is not a farce; limiting interpreting and translating to professionals who have demonstrated the minimum standards of proficiency not only provides effective and