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Submit legislation for team interpreting during trials in Texas courts

This petition had 181 supporters


One in seven Texans needs spoken-language interpreters to participate effectively in court. Licensed court interpreters fill a vital role in the Texas judiciary by putting Limited English Proficient people on an equal footing with English-speakers, and making equal access to justice a possibility in spite of linguistic barriers. Simultaneous interpretation is an extremely demanding mental task, and research shows that accuracy declines after 30 to 45 minutes. In many other states and nations, and with sign language interpreters in Texas courts, a team of two interpreters always works together for trials and extended hearings. This allows one person to interpret actively while the other monitors and rests between turns. In most Texas jurisdictions, however, court interpreters are required to work hours at a time without a partner and sometimes without breaks. This is unfair to the interpreters whose fatigue can prevent them from noticing their mistakes, and unjust to the parties relying on the accuracy of their interpretation. More and more court interpreters are refusing to accept solo assignments for trials due to an ethical concern that they cannot stand by the accuracy of their renderings under such conditions.  

We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Texas Judicial Council to submit legislation in the 2017 session which would hold Texas courts to the same standards on team interpreting for spoken languages as those already required for sign language. Interpreter fatigue and errors are too great of a threat to the due process rights of Limited English Proficient Texans.

Some of the organizations who have spoken in support of this standard include:

- US Department of Justice: "Where such proceedings are lengthy, the interpreter will likely need breaks and team interpreting may be appropriate to ensure accuracy and to prevent errors caused by mental fatigue of interpreters." (http://www.lep.gov/guidance/final_guidance_2002.pdf)

- National Center for State Courts - State Justice Institute: "Interpreters should notify the presiding officer of the need to take periodic breaks to maintain mental and physical alertness and prevent interpreter fatigue. Interpreters should recommend and encourage the use of team interpreting whenever necessary." (http://www.ncsc.org/~/media/files/pdf/services%20and%20experts/areas%20of%20expertise/language%20access/resources%20for%20program%20managers/court%20interpretation%20-%20consortium%20model%20guides%20for%20policy%20and%20practice%20in%20the%20state%20courts.ashx)

- American Bar Association: "Courts should support the interpreter’s ability to uphold the code of conduct’s mandate to provide an accurate interpretation by scheduling a team of interpreters for long proceedings." (http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/legal_aid_indigent_defendants/ls_sclaid_standards_for_language_access_proposal.authcheckdam.pdf)

- NAJIT, the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators: "In the challenging courtroom environment, team interpreting ensures that the comprehension effort required to provide accurate interpretation is not compromised. To deliver unassailably accurate language service, court interpreters work in teams."  (www.najit.org/documents/Team%20Interpreting_052007.pdf)

- TAJIT, the Texas Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (www.tajit.org)



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