Court Reporters and Interpreters – Wonder if You Understand the Language and the Interpretation is Not Quite Right?


Court reporters are known to be “guardians of the record.”  Our sanctified job is to write down the spoken words in a proceeding.  We are not to characterize what is said.  If someone asks after a deposition, “Was the questioning attorney yelling?  Did you feel he/she was abusive or intimidating,” our job is not to say “yes” or  “no.”  We only take down what is said.  It is up to the parties to make their record.

But what happens if you are reporting an interpreted proceeding, you speak the language, and you know the interpreter is wrong?  Do you speak up and interrupt the proceedings?”

I believe if a court reporter happens to know a particular language, it is not the job of that court reporter to educate the attorneys about what is being said.  It is up to the attorneys to protect their client(s)’ best interests.  If a check interpreter is necessary, the attorney defending the deposition needs to hire the check interpreter.

Let’s imagine the court reporter that speaks Farsi was not hired for a particular Farsi-interpreted deposition.  Does that mean the witness is vulnerable because the court reporter doesn’t speak Farsi?  Or let’s pretend a court reporter speaks Spanish and hears a Spanish translation that is not correct.  Does that mean the Spanish-speaking court reporter becomes a part of the proceeding and interrupts to give her/his interpretation?  It would be a very slippery slope to danger if a court reporter became a part of the interpreted proceeding.

As difficult as it might be, I would suggest every court reporter do only their job, take down the verbatim written record, and not interject anything into the record.  It is not our job to interpret, and I believe it would be very wrong to become a part of the record.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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