When I (Judy) first became a certified court interpreter, the biggest challenge I encountered wasn’t one of terminology, but one of procedure. Even though my home office is well-stocked with fantastic dictionaries and resources about the American and Mexican legal systems, civil procedure and textbooks, and I’ve taken classes in criminal and civil procedure, I was never quite sure what to expect during the many types of legal situations for which I interpret. I had a hard time, for instance, finding out exactly how civil depositions are conducted. I looked high and low, and found limited information, so I learned it by doing it. Perhaps there is a resource out there that I am not familiar with (please let me know if there is, dear readers!) that explains the processes well, but I wanted to share my informal (and by no means exhaustive) list of procedural structure with you.
|Ready to interpret!|
- Most of the civil cases for which I’ve interpreted during depositions revolve around either car accidents or some type of personal injury (think slip and fall). There are also many others, such as construction defect. Most depositions last 1-2 hours.
- Depositions are usually held at law offices, either at the office of the plaintiff’s or the defendant’s attorney. There are usually at least five parties present: deponent, his or her counsel, opposing counsel, court reporter and the interpreter. Complex cases with multiple plaintiffs and defendants can have up to a dozen people in the room.
- In general, the party or law firm who requested the deposition will pay (this is very important with direct clients, so be sure to clear this up beforehand). Be sure to get the case name and the deponent’s name for invoicing purposes.
- Court reporters will be present at all depositions. They are taking down the record in English only, so your interpretation into English will become part of the official record. Be sure to sit next to the court reporter so she can hear you (I’ve never met a male court reporter). The deponent should sit next to you on your other side, and his or her counsel will be seated on the next chair. The opposing counsel will traditionally sit across the table in a typical conference room setting.
- The court reporter will swear you in. Be sure not to agree to “faithfully translate.” As annoying as it might be, I always correct the record to reflect “interpret.”
- After that, the court reporter will swear in the deponent. This is when you start interpreting simultaneously.
- Keep a blank piece of paper handy on which you will jot down difficult names and places for the court reporter, who will have to produce the transcript. I usually write down things like Eulalia, Amecameca, Tuxtla Gutiérrez – generally cities and names that are challenging for non-Spanish speakers to understand.
- The deposing counsel will introduce him or herself and explain to the deponent how the process works. When interpreting into Spanish (or any other language) for the deponent, I usually lean close to the deponent and speak in a softer voice so I don’t disrupt the court reporter, who is taking down the English for the record. When interpreting into English, I speak up so the court reporter can hear me. Portable interpreting equipment is traditionally not used in depositions.
- Attorneys love to object to each other’s questions. Unfortunately—and they obviously know this—there is no judge to issue a ruling on the objection. They are just trying to get on the record with their objection, and you must interpret the objection, which can be confusing for the deponent. Usually, their counsel will instruct them if they should answer the question or not. Attorneys will also say things like: “For the record, I think defense counsel is being unreasonable,” which you must also interpret.
Part two of this series will follow next month. I hope this information has helped you gain some insight into what’s ahead if you get called to interpret at a deposition. If you have anything you would like to share: please do so by leaving a comment.