Court Adopts Interpreter Protocol

By Chief Judge Kenneth M. Switzer, Nashville

[Note: Yesterday we posted an article about interpretation in the Court. It was in German. How frustrated did that make you feel if you don’t read German? Some of you sent emails or made comments asking for help. Some of you thought we’d hit the wrong button. We didn’t. But did it make you feel as if you were hopelessly lost and had no chance of understanding? Then, for a moment, you experienced the same feeling that limited-English proficient litigants feel when they appear in an English-speaking court. This is why we need interpreters and have a protocol for interpretation. The article reappears below, in English.]

Last November, we published an article about the importance of proper interpretation during court hearings — not just settlements, but expedited and compensation hearings, too.

Previously, we’ve permitted some hybrid interpretations. We’ve allowed conversational interpretation, simultaneous interpretations, and split interpretations (where the employee speaks their language in part and English in part). Sometimes these worked; sometimes (mostly) they didn’t and caused much confusion or difficulty in understanding.

So, after consulting with experts in the field and observing some other states’ methods, we’ve devised a protocol. The link is here.

Please look it over before your next court visit, and let your client know how the hearing will proceed under the protocol.

I’ve implemented it several times already. It takes patience and can be taxing on the interpreter. You may have to take a few more breaks during trials. But it provides a clean record, and we go into this knowing what the process will be.

Let’s try this. Simply put, it’s a matter of due process and respect.

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