Tag Archives: court administrator


4 Aug



Recently a colleague asked “when you are doing preparation for a trial and gathering case information, do you also ask the prosecuting attorney for anything or do you just rely on the defense attorney to provide you with the materials?” Two women sprang to mind immediately: my Aunt Chickie and Isabel Framer. My dear tía says “Ask nice, honey” and Isabel let me know that I had the right to ask for what I need to interpret successfully.

The question splits in two. What do I need and whom do I ask?  The other interpreter’s bible “Fundamentals of Court Interpretation”[i] stresses “it is helpful for interpreters to familiarize themselves with the facts involved in the case at hand before beginning to interpret.” We prepare ahead of time in order to perform unobtrusively. This partial list answers the first question:

  • Complaint
  • Affidavit of the arresting officer
  • Indictments and motions
  • Witness and appearing party lists
  • Medical reports

Okay, list ready so now whom do I approach? In this case start with the defense attorney. Ask, “What’s the best way to communicate with you? Email? Fax?” Does his secretary send out the information, if he has one? If so, I learn her name and contact her, introduce myself and rattle off the same request.

Remember, the stack of files in the defense lawyer’s hand serves as a reminder that interpreters are a wee part of her day. Develop an amicable relationship with that person from the get go. Follow up with a thank you card or phone call. Sure, Email works but why not deliver kind words away from the confines of a 4½” by 2” Android screen?

All well and good but what if the defense attorney refuses? Unfortunately this happened to me in spite of NAJIT position papers and an explanation that “the more information interpreters have, the better he or she can interpret”[ii]. On to the prosecutor.

“Miss Prosecutor, do you have a second?” Explain the request and ask for materials. If she asks “Did you talk to XXX?” I respond with “I need the materials and can you help to aid in Mrs. Defendant’s defense so that she is linguistically present.”

Here I follow the same steps: “Do you have a minute?” Stick to that minute. Now is not the time for idle chatter on last night’s episode of Modern Family. I go to the source and request help. Politely. I avoid “I asked XXX for information but she turned me down and I don’t know why.” Leave the snark for others.

Sometimes defense attorneys stubbornly cling to files in spite of requests. No problem. I approached the person who contacted me first. Again, be aware of the hierarchy and the purpose of your request.

“Hi, this is John Shaklee and I’m interpreting before Judge XXX on XXX case with XXX attorney. Do you have a minute to talk?” If she answers no, then I ask may I follow up with an Email. Then, I explain that I need case materials in order to provide a seamless interpretation and that I keep information confidential. Can she help me out? If she responds with a puzzled look or suspicious tone, say “I keep all information confidential and comply with a professional code of ethics, too.” Bam! I hand over a code of ethics – my dear friend Sandra Bravo taught me that strategy years ago. I follow up with a thank-you phone call or a brief handwritten note.

If refused, it’s time to ask for five minutes of the judge’s time. Again, another contact and chance to develop a relationship with her bailiff, secretary or whomever stands in the legal hierarchy. Come prepared with the request and reinforce that as an officer of the court, the interpreter aids in the defendant’s defense and to assure Mr. Velasco hears proceedings in his native language. My experience has been that court secretaries move mountains. Let them know they made my job easier and I appreciate it. I may send the NAJIT position paper for Court Administrators. Madame Secretary operates as part of a multi-layered system and I hope to initiate a friendly, not adversarial relationship.

Brevity and preparation result with answers. Court folks attend to hundreds of tasks in a day and there’s no need to be pesky. Let me know how your efforts turn out.

[i] Dueñas González, Roseann, Victoria E. Vásquez and Holly Mikkelson. Fundamentals of Court Interpretation: Theory, Policy, and Practice. Durham: Carolina Academic Press. 1991. 507.

[ii] Kenigson Kristy, Judith. “Language and Litigation: What judges and attorneys need to know about interpreters in the legal process.” Proteus Winter 2009-2010. Volume XVIII, No. 4.: 3-4.



29 May


Greetings from Ohio. Recently my trusted colleague, Ana Gallardo, and I prepared for a trial. After a friendly call to the court administrator, the prosecutor provided what we needed most: case materials. She sent the subpoena list and police report. Now our pre-trial efforts begin.


What I offer today is The Interpreter Guy’s plan to prepare to work in conjunction not only with Ana, but the defense attorney, judge and witnesses. I researched the charge according to the Ohio Revised Code because unfailingly those words would trip off Your Honor’s tongue at some time. The police report provided a narrative of what to expect from the witnesses. I can use this template again and again. Of course, this does not include all the information for a trial, but serves as a springboard to prepare. Enjoy.


Trial Victor Palacios Ramirez

Case No. 2013 XXXX


9:00 a.m.

Assistant prosecutor/Asistente al fiscal: XXX

Defense attorney/Abogado defensor: XXX

Judge/juez/jueza: XXX

Charges/Cargos/puntos que se le formula: Agresión delictiva/felonious assault F2 Delito mayor 2° grado 2903.11A1 (ORC Ohio Revised Code/Código Enmendado de Ohio)

Date of the attack/Fecha del ataque: XXX

Scene of the crime/Lugar de los hechos: XXXX


Police Department: XXX, Officer XXX

Representative, XXX Hospital

Witness/testigo XXX 1234 Vernon Ave North Canton OH 44720

Provided Voluntary Statement to Patrolman XXX

Witness/testigo XXX

Victim/víctima: XXX, 5678 Cucamonga Lane Coartada CA 27 yrs old, DOB XX/XX/XX


Victor Palacios Ramirez XXX-XX-XXX

9101 Victoria Boulevard Akron OH XXXX PR

Works at XXX, first appeared before XXX court


On XXX at XXX Road, the defendant (translation into Spanish of narrative.)


Aggravated assault Agresión; violencia personal con agravantes (arma o lesión)
Aggravated assault Agresión con daños físicos graves
Argument (PR) tángana, pleito
Assault Agredir; atacar; acometer
Assault and battery Asalto y agresión
Assault with a deadly weapon Agresión/asalto con un arma mortífera
Bill of information Acusación formulada por la fiscalía
Bodily harm Lesiones físicas; daños corporales
Book into jail Fichar
Brandish a weapon Esgrimir; blandir
Challenge for cause Recusación con causa
Chest tube insertion Inserción de sonda pleural
Claims Pretensiones
Closing argument Argumento/informe final
Closing argument Resumen del caso; alegatos finales; discurso final
Collect DNA Recopilar ADN
Deadly weapon Arma mortífera
Destroy Desvirtuar (las tesis primarias)
Disturbance Alboroto; perturbación; trastorno
Draw a weapon Sacar, desenfundar
Empanel (jury) Consistirse el jurado
Exhibit Documento de prueba, objeto de prueba, prueba material, prueba instrumental
Felonious assault Agresión con agravantes
Fist, closed – Puño cerrado
Harmful; injurious Novico; lesivo; perjudicial; dañino
Have tucked into waistband (of a knife or weapon) Traer fajado en la cintura
Horrendous, atrocious Atroz
Incident, without – Sin incidentes
Opening statement Discurso de apertura
Overruled (objection) No ha lugar, improcedente (objección)
Peremptory challenge Recusación sin causa
Personal weapon Arma particular
Rebuttal En descargo de
Redirect Repreguntas
Reporting officer Agente que presentó el informe
Rib fracture Fractura de la costilla
Serious physical harm Lesiones/daños físicas graves
Strike (victim) Golpear
Sustained (objection) Ha lugar, procedente (objección)
Verbal argument (PR) bronca (verbal), discusión; riña
Voir dire Examen preliminar de un jurado
Voluntary statement Declaración voluntaria
Wall, pushed him into a – Empujar
Weapon Arma


Ohio laws and rules  http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2903