When a Court Interpreter Must Disclose a Potential Conflict of Interest


Recently, a Spanish-speaking friend of mine with limited English proficiency asked me to accompany him to court for a hearing.  Don’t worry, I didn’t interpret. No ethical principles were broken. I was there simply to provide moral support to my friend.


As it turned out, my wife Emily, a South Carolina certified court interpreter, was assigned that day to court.

When Emily noticed us enter the courtroom, before court was in session, she spoke briefly with the judge and the officer to inform them that a family friend would be present. Although she felt she could be unbiased, she wanted to ensure that they were aware. This would also allow the court to seek out another interpreter if deemed appropriate.



This course of action is in line with the Code of Ethics which states:


Canon 2. Impartiality and Conflicts of Interest

Court interpreters and translators are to remain impartial and neutral in proceedings where they serve, and must maintain the appearance of impartiality and neutrality, avoiding unnecessary contact with the parties. Court interpreters and translators shall abstain from comment on matters in which they serve. Any real or potential conflict of interest shall be immediately disclosed to the Court and all parties as soon as the interpreter or translator becomes aware of such conflict of interest.


It turned out that the judge had no objection to her interpreting duties that day. It was also a treat for me to take some time from my normally busy schedule to watch my wife and business partner in action.

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