Conflict of interest or no?

I recently interpreted for a person who applied for a civil stalking and sexually oriented offense protection order. The victim advocate helped prepare the petition for an upcoming court hearing. Once completed, a question arose: ”Can you serve as the table interpreter for this hearing?” My interpreter ethics alarm went off. I mentioned that I recently read “Best Practices on Witness Preparation” by Janis Palma on the NAJIT blog. After a few hems and haws I replied ”I’ll get back to you.”


I re-read Janis’ article and Judith Kenigson Kristy’s ”Language and Litigation: What Judges and Attorneys Need to Know about Interpreters in the Legal Process.” Judith helped me with another ethical dilemma when a court subpoened me to testify on a botched jail interview. I always provide a pre-session, no matter if the attorney or court wishes to rush ahead. At the jail interview the detective forgot to push ”record” during the pre-session when I introduced myself to the prisoner and clarified my role. The prisoner had addressed me as “Mr. Attorney” at the end of the interview. That’s a topic for another blogpost.


Janis writes ”A conflict of interest is not the same for an interpreter as for an attorney. An interpreter can work for either side or both sides of a case. The only prohibition is that an interpreter cannot be a witness in the same case in which he is acting as a proceedings interpreter … A proceedings interpreter (me) should reveal to the judge and parties any prior contacts with the case.” I later contacted the advocate to offer to interpret.

This same situation surfaced several weeks ago. A simple hearing turned into a trial with witness testimony at the last minute. I warned the judge that ideally there would be an interpreter for both parties. She was aware and received approval from both lawyers. The trial continued without a hitch.


What is your experience when a conflict of interest arises? Please share your strategies here.

Published by The Interpreter Fellow

I am an Ohio State Certified Court Interpreter and Certified Healthcare Interpreter in Spanish. MA Translation from The Institute for Applied Linguistics at Kent State University. Currently I serve Akron Children's Hospital Pediatrics and local courts.

One thought on “Conflict of interest or no?

  1. Thank you for sharing with us, medical interpreters, the conflicts you experience in legal settings. It represents a valuable source of information and knowledge. Very interesting.


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Liam O'Dell

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