Monday, June 26, 2006

S.C. high court issues rules for interpreters

The Associated Press

CHARLESTON - An increase in the number of non-English speakers in South Carolina's courts has led the state Supreme Court to issue guidelines for courtroom interpreters.

The new guidelines don't alter the current method of how interpreters are screened and approved by judges in a trial. But it does set standards they must abide by, including making sure every statement by a witness or defendant is repeated accurately, correctly and in context.

"Every spoken statement, even if it appears non-responsive, obscene, rambling, or incoherent should be interpreted. This includes apparent misstatements," the guidelines read.

It isn't known how many interpreters are available in S.C. courtrooms, or how frequently they are used.

But the recent increase in Hispanics coming to South Carolina along with increasing international tourism to the state has made interpreters a necessary tool in the state's courtrooms.

The justices wrote the guidelines as part of a continuing effort to adapt to a changing world, said Rosalyn Frierson, director of the state Office of Court Administration.

The rules are similar to the ethical guidelines that apply to lawyers and judges, including requiring interpreters to be partial and unbiased and demanding they disclose any conflict of interest.

Interpreters also shouldn't give legal advice or express personal opinions to the people they are helping, according to the rules.

While the influx of Hispanics into the state has made Spanish-to-English translators a demanded group, Portuguese interpreters are also frequently needed in Charleston.

And the guidelines cover sign language readers who are called on to interpret for the deaf.

Charleston interpreter Cynthia Hernandez said the guidelines are needed to maintain the mutual professionalism among everyone who works in a courtroom.

Translators earn about $25 an hour while they are in court.

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