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Protecting the Rights of Linguistic Minorities: Challenges to Court Interpretation

141 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2005  

Llewellyn Joseph Gibbons

University of Toledo - College of Law; Fellow, Intellectual Property Rights Center

Charles M. Grabau



The trial judge has the duty to supervise and conduct judicial proceedings so as to afford all parties a fair and impartial trial to the end that justice may be served. Courtsand scholarly commentators recognize that inadequate or improper court interpretation creates problems of constitutional dimensions.Often some parties are denied a fair and impartial trial because judges are either insensitive to the necessity of a qualified court interpreter to protect the rights of a non-English speaker - a linguistic minority - or act as if they have no control over the interpreter, and consequently over the proceeding. While the focus of this article is on the use of court interpreters in a criminal proceeding, the principles discussed and the suggestions made are generally applicable to any civil or administrative proceeding requiring an interpreter. This article will discuss the statutory and constitutional rights of defendants and witnesses to have access to a court interpreter, court interpreter qualifications, ethical issues in court interpreting, and some common problems that frequently occur during judicial proceedings. Throughout the article there are suggestions that will facilitate the proper use of court interpreters. The article concludes with a recommendation for increased awareness by judges, attorneys, and other participants in the legal system of the unique role a professional court interpreter serves in promoting equal access to the courts, and a recommendation that states adopt uniform court interpreter certification programs.

Keywords: court interpreter, court interpretation, linguistic minority, language, court translation, translation, civil rights, fair trail

Suggested Citation

Gibbons, Llewellyn Joseph and Grabau, Charles M., Protecting the Rights of Linguistic Minorities: Challenges to Court Interpretation. New England Law Review, Vol. 30, No. 227, 1996. Available at SSRN:

Llewellyn Gibbons (Contact Author)

University of Toledo - College of Law ( email )

2801 W. Bancroft Street
Toledo, OH 43606
United States
419-530-4175 (Phone)
419-530-7878 (Fax)

Fellow, Intellectual Property Rights Center ( email )

No.143, Wuluo Road
Wuhan, Hubei 430073

Charles Grabau


No Address Available

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