the interpreter to appear in court.
If your court administrator, clerk, or ADA coordinator does not already have a relationship with an interpreter
service, check the state or national certified lists atwww.dars.state.tx.us/dhhs
Remember, the court is responsible for locating, scheduling, assigning, and paying for qualified interpreters.
Also, since different signed languages exist, the court should verify the individual’s preferred language before
scheduling an interpreter.
What is the role of a qualified interpreter?
The qualified interpreter has two primary
responsibilities during a court proceeding:
(1) to listen to what is said in English and
convey the meaning in sign language, and (2)
to observe the communications of the deaf
or hard-of-hearing individual and interpret
them into English.
Professional interpreters know to interpret
everything that is said in the courtroom
without omissions or additions. They also
know not to conduct any side conversations.
Occasionally, however, questions posed
to a deaf or hard-of-hearing individual
may require the interpreter to break the
question down into more than one part in
order to fit the grammatical structure of sign
language. In those cases what may appear
as an exchange between the witness and the
interpreter is actually part of the interpreting
process and should not be misconstrued as a side conversation. The interpreter may also occasionally
request clarification if he or she does not understand a word or phrase.
Should an interpreter take an oath prior to the proceeding?
Yes. Here is a sample oath based on the language in the statute:
“Do you solemnly swear or affirm that
you will make a true interpretation of all case proceedings and discharge all of the duties and obligations of
legal interpretation and translation to your best skill and judgment so help you God?”
What can a judge do to assist the interpreted proceedings?
When using an interpreter, the judge may find it helpful to clarify the interpreter’s role to the parties prior
to the court proceeding. Other suggestions include:
• Ask for the interpreter’s input on the best location for the interpreter in relation to the others involved
in the communication.
• Speak directly to the deaf or hard-of-hearing individual, not to the interpreter.
• Speak in a natural speed and tone of voice, but speak clearly and slowly enough for the interpreter to
• Sign language does not always have specific signs for specialized or technical words. Sometimes
interpreters will need to “fingerspell” specialized or technical words or may need help understanding
the concept first in order to provide an equivalent sign or interpretation. Providing vocabulary lists,
documents, or pleadings to the interpreters in advance will ensure a more successful and accurate