Describe your duty – Adhere to a code of ethics

17 Mar

A greater part of court interpreting is to define the interpreter’s role. Recently I gladly accepted an assignment in a new court. The NAJIT Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibilities ( encourages me to “… [interpreters] limit their participation to those matters in which they serve to interpreting and translating, and shall not give advice to the parties or otherwise engage in activities that can be construed as the practice of law”

What to do when the court clerk suggested, “Mrs. XXX is over there, why not go introduce yourself and let her know what’s going on today”?¬†Luckily a colleague, Natalya Mytareva, taught me years ago that when there are two, I’m not interpreting. When there are three, I am. Stay within the parameters.

I reached for “The Nature of Duties to the Defendant”, handed the document to the clerk and politely asked the clerk if I might introduce myself. She agreed.

I introduced myself (see attached) and in less than thirty seconds the clerk, Mrs. XXX (and her daughter who spoke English) learned what a professional interpreter does in order to uphold the standards of the profession. The last words from the clerk? “Mr. Shaklee, we would be happy to have you return and help us again.” Music to the ears.

Attached is the same document. A shout out to Arlene Kelly of the ATA who provided the handout back in 2004. With each assignment I remember to describe my duty and keep to my own code of ethics. Enjoy.

The Nature of Duties to the Defendant


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