Interpreters are generally used in two contexts in relation to summary judgment motions in federal district court: Interpretations of documents and interpretation of deposition testimony.
“At the summary judgment stage, a translation must be properly authenticated and show an accurate translation by a qualified interpreter.” Rosario-Guerrro v. Orange Blossom Harvesting, 265 F.R.D. 619, 623 (M.D. Fl. 2010) (citing Miranda v. Sweet Dixie Melon Company, 2009 WL 1324847 *1, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 40343 *3-4 (M.D. Ga. 2009). See also Jack v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 854 F. Supp. 654, 659 (N.D. Cal. 1994)(citing Fed. R. Evid. 604 and 901); The Sunrider Corp. v. Bountiful Biotech Corp., Not Reported in F.Supp.2d, 2010 WL 4590766 *15, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117347 *45 (Unpub. C.D. Cal. 2010, Hon. Mag. Judge Andrew Wistrich)(adopted by Hon. Judge David O. Carter at 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117346)(quoting Jack). The translation must be sworn by the interpreter. See Fonseca v. Hall, 568 F. Supp.2d 1110, 1125 n. 10 (C.D. Cal. 2008). The party relying on the translated affidavit must lay a proper foundation to show the translator is qualified, that such individual did the translations, and the circumstances under which the English language affidavit was signed. Jack, 854 F.Supp. at 659.
Furthermore, federal courts generally disfavor the use of a biased interpreter. In Prince v. Beto, 426 F.2d 875, 876 (5th Cir. 1970), a criminal case, the court found that the use of a husband to interpret his wife’s testimony deprived the defendant of a fair trial. In United States v. Anguloa, 588 F.2d 1182, 1185 (9th Cir. 1979) quoting Lujan v. United States, 209 F.2d 190, 192 (10th Cir. 1953), the court found that a disinterested interpreter is essential to an impartial interpretation of a witness’ testimony, while observing that it is within trial court’s discretion to determine fitness of person called. In Barber Asphalt Paving Co. v. Odasz, 85 F. 754, 756 (2nd Cir. 1898), a civil appeal, the court found that it was within the trial court’s discretion to determine the fitness of a biased interpreter, but it was not an encouraged practice.
Unlike an affidavit, there is no requirement that a deposition’s record contain the interpreter’s qualification or a separate certification that the translation is accurate. Rosario-Guerrro v. Orange Blossom Harvesting, 265 F.R.D. 619, 623 (M.D. Fl. 2010) (citing Miranda v. Sweet Dixie Melon Company, 2009 WL 1324847 *1, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 40343 *3-4 (M.D. Ga. 2009)). For depositions, the interpreter need only be sworn . Id. Notably, some courts, like the Federal District Court for the Central of District of California, maintain a list of interpreters but do not specifically endorse them.
Daniel W. Layton, Esq., the author of this post, is a former federal prosecutor and civil litigation attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California in Los Angeles. He is currently a tax controversy attorney handling civil and criminal tax defense cases in Layton & Lopez Tax Attorneys, LLP, in Newport Beach, Orange County, California.