Foreign Language Interpreter Alabama Code and Ethics


Section 4.1 - General Conduct and Responsibilities

At all times, the court interpreter shall act in a manner consistent with the following general conduct and principles:

(a) Interpreters are officers of the court and shall conduct themselves in a courteous, professional and responsible manner.

(b) Interpreters should know and observe the court’s established protocol, rules, and procedures when delivering interpreting services. When speaking in English, interpreters should speak at a rate and at a volume that enables them to be heard and understood throughout the courtroom, but the interpreter’s presence should otherwise be as unobtrusive as possible.

(c) Interpreters should dress in a manner that is consistent with the dignity of the court.

(d) Interpreters shall refrain from making any type of referrals (e.g. to bondsmen, attorneys, etc.).

(e) Interpreters shall adhere to all instructions given by the court in which their services are being used.

(f) Interpreters shall honestly and accurately represent their education, training and certification(s).

(g) Interpreters shall adhere to the Foreign Language Interpreters’ Code of Professional Responsibility.

(h) Interpreters shall continually seek to enhance and refine their skills and knowledge through continued interpreter education and training.

Section 4.2 - The Proper Role of the Interpreter

At all times, a court interpreter shall act in the following manner:

(a) Interpreters shall interpret completely and accurately. Accurately and completely would mean verbatim repetition in the appropriate language unless the use of slang or idiom prevents verbatim translation. Interpreters shall not alter the meaning of the statements they are interpreting. Interpreters shall not interject personal words, phrases or expressions. Interpreters shall not elaborate or explain the statements they are interpreting. Interpreters shall not correct misstatements, even when a misstatement is an obvious error. (e.g., should a witness answer an incorrect date of “1899” rather than “1999”).

(b) Interpreters shall accurately convey the tone and register of the statements they are interpreting.

(c) Interpreters shall inform the court immediately if they become concerned about their ability to interpret in accordance with these policies and procedures in a particular proceeding or for a particular person. (E.g., the interpreter cannot understand the defendant’s language, or personally knows the witness or defendant, or has strong opinions regarding the case.)

(d) Interpreters shall notify the court if there is any environmental or physical limitation that impedes or hinders their ability to deliver interpreting services adequately (e.g., the courtroom is not quiet enough for the interpreter to hear or be heard by the non-English speaker; more than one person at a time is speaking; or parties or witnesses are speaking at a rate of speed that is too rapid for the interpreter to adequately interpret).

(e) Interpreters shall notify the court of the need to take periodic breaks in order to maintain mental and physical alertness or prevent interpreter fatigue.

(f) Interpreters are encouraged to make inquiries as to the nature of a case whenever possible before accepting an assignment. This enables interpreters to match more closely their professional qualifications, skills, and experience to potential assignments.

(g) Interpreters should refrain from accepting a case when the language, dialect or subject matter of the case is likely to exceed their skills or capacities.

(h) Interpreters shall not give legal advice or express personal opinions to individuals for whom they are interpreting.

(i) Interpreters may interpret the words of legal advice given by an attorney to an individual requiring an interpreter; however, may not add their own advice or explanation to assist the individual requiring an interpreter.

(j) If an individual doesn’t understand a statement or question in another language, the interpreter shall only interpret for the person making the statement or asking the question the individual’s lack of understanding that individual expresses. In other words, the interpreter allows the person making the statement or asking the question to clarify without adding the interpreter’s own explanation.

(k) An interpreter may translate language on a document for an individual who is filling out the document, but the interpreter must use the words and information given by the individual requiring an interpreter and not fill out the document without that individual’s input.

(l) Interpreters should initiate communications during a proceeding when they find it necessary to seek assistance in performing their duties, but should do so in third person. (e.g., “The interpreter requests that the question be repeated, clarified, etc...”). Whether speaking to the court, an attorney, or the individual requiring an interpreter, the interpreter shall make clear who is speaking.

(m) The interpreter shall not perform acts that are the official responsibility of other court officials.

Section 4.3 - Impartiality and Confidentiality

Each registered, certified or otherwise qualified interpreter appointed by Alabama’s courts shall agree to each of the following:

(a) Interpreters shall remain impartial, even when interpreting for a party that hired that interpreter or for a party for whom the interpreter worked previously in another capacity. Interpreters shall disclose to the court any possible conflict of interest. Any condition that may interfere with the objectivity of the interpreter may be considered a disqualifying conflict of interest.

Examples of possible conflicts of interest include the following:

1. The interpreter is a friend, associate, or relative of a party or an attorney for a party involved in the proceeding, and that person or attorney is adverse in the proceeding to the person needing an interpreter;

2. The interpreter has served in an investigative capacity for a party or attorney involved in the proceeding, and that party or attorney is adverse in the proceeding to the person needing an interpreter;

3. The interpreter has assisted a law enforcement agency in the preparation of the criminal case at issue, and the person needing the interpreter is the criminal or juvenile defendant;

4. The interpreter or member of the interpreter’s family has a financial interest in the case contrary to that of the individual needing an interpreter, or any other interest contrary to that of the individual needing an interpreter that could be affected by the outcome of the case;

5. The interpreter has assisted in an adverse or another party’s choice of attorney for the case.

(b) Interpreters shall disclose to the court and other parties when they previously have been retained for private employment by a party or attorney in the case.

(c) Interpreters shall not serve in any matter in which payment for their services is contingent upon the outcome of the case.

(d) Other than authorized payment for court interpreter services, interpreters shall not accept money, favors or other consideration which could be considered as an attempt to influence the discharge of their interpreter duties.

(e) Interpreters shall not accept payment directly from or on behalf of an indigent person for whom the interpreter is paid by the State to provide interpreting services.

(f) An interpreter who is also a licensed attorney shall not serve in both capacities in the same legal matter, unless the attorney is interpreting solely for his or her own client.

(g) Interpreters shall notify the court of any personal bias they may have in any aspect of a case.

(h) Interpreters shall preserve the confidentiality of any privileged or confidential information they interpret.

(i) Interpreters shall not publicly discuss or comment on a matter in which they are providing interpreter services. An interpreter shall not allow interviews with the media, or otherwise express personal opinions regarding a case.

(j) Interpreters shall strive for professional detachment. Verbal and non-verbal displays of personal attitudes, prejudices, emotions, or opinions should be avoided at all times.

(k) For the duration of the proceedings, interpreters shall neither interact with nor socialize with the opposing or other parties, attorneys for opposing or other parties, witnesses, jurors, presiding officials or friends or relatives of one of these persons, except when carrying out their official duties.

(l) Interpreters must also refrain from repeating or disclosing information obtained by them in the course of their employment that may be relevant to the legal proceeding.

(m) In the event that an interpreter becomes aware of information that suggests imminent harm to someone or relates to a crime being committed during the course of the proceedings, the interpreter shall immediately disclose the information to the judge presiding over the proceeding.

(n) No court interpreter shall comment or render an opinion on the propriety or impropriety of a verdict in any matter in which he or she has served.