The Ethics of Legal Interpreting

9 Ethical Canons of Legal Interpreting

Legal Interpreter’s Code of EthicsLegal Interpreting is a demanding profession, not only because of the skills required to convey a conversation between multiple parties and languages, but also due to the fact that there is a specific code of ethics to which all professional interpreters should comply. This is not only at the professional level, but also at the industry level and, in the case of legal and court interpreters, at the state level. These ethical conducts tend to overlap, and some major ones are outlined below.


Legal Interpreter’s Code of Ethics

The nine points below are a sample of those outlined by the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, as well as the Committee for the Administration of Interpreters for the Trial Court Administrative Office of the Trial Court, Massachusetts.

1. Accuracy and Completeness the dialogue should be conveyed in full to the target language, without omission or distortion of the original message in any way.

2. Impartiality & Avoidance of Conflicts of Interest – court interpreters should remain as impartial in proceedings as possible, and should limit unnecessary contact with any of the parties involved while treating them all equally regardless of race, sex, national origin, religion etc.

3. Confidentiality & Restriction of Public Comment – legal and court interpreters will not disclose any confidential matter, nor shall they make any public comments pertaining to the case.

4. Limitations of Practice – professional legal and court interpreters will not perform any work outside the scope of translation or interpreting services; including giving advice about the case.

5. Protocol and Demeanor – interpreters must keep to the professional standards of the court and of interpreters, including speaking in the first person for the parties, and notifying the court when the interpreter will be speaking for him/herself.

6. Maintenance and Improvement of Skills & Knowledge – continuous learning and enhancement of interpreting and translation skills is expected.

7. Accurate Representation of Credentials – any and all certifications, training, prior experience etc. should be properly represented.

8. Interpreting Protocols – the interpreter must comply with usage of a particular mode of interpretation or translation (consecutive, simultaneous or sight translation) based on specific situations outlined by the court.

9. Impediments to Compliance – any circumstance which will inhibit the court / legal interpreter from complying with the aforementioned protocols should be brought to the courts attention immediately.

Ethical Implications of Being a Legal / Court Interpreter

Court InterpretingOne of the biggest ethical challenges a legal interpreter will face from the start is that of being impartial. As a professional interpreter, you are expected to repeat exactly what is being said in a conversation, with no omissions – even if you do not agree with what is being discussed. This must be done with no indication of your own personal feelings towards the conversation, in order to ensure that the message is accurately conveyed. In a legal setting, and especially in a court room, a professional interpreter may have to repeat dialogue that goes against his or her ideas, beliefs, morals and so on. However, as a legal interpreter, you are bound by the aforementioned code of ethics to repeat what you hear, without bias.


Ethical Inside and Out of the Courtroom

Legal InterpretingLegal interpreting doesn’t just take place in the courtroom. There are many instances where a legal interpreter’s services will be required - from depositions to law enforcement investigations. However, just because the interpreting isn’t taking place within a courtroom, it does not mean that these ethical standards should not be abided. Legal interpreter training and court interpreter certification courses can help you learn the best practices for abiding by these ethics, while still staying true to your professional and personal self.

Get the necessary, in person training regarding interpreter ethics and the skills necessary in order to become a certified Legal Interpreter, with Interpreter Training Boston’s Legal Interpreter Training Program.

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