Courtroom Interpreter: Need vs. Want

As Prof. Shea Denning mentioned in her post yesterday, the School of Government and the Conference of District Attorneys jointly presented the Practical Skills for New Prosecutors course last week. In addition to covering relevant criminal law and ethical rules, the program also addressed the nuts and bolts of running a courtroom and moving the docket — complex tasks that present unique challenges of their own.

One issue from the mechanics and procedure realm that caught my attention was a point that came up during the session on courtroom interpreters and other language services. In the hectic and fast-paced world of district court, how should attorneys and the court respond to a person who says that he or she does not want an interpreter, but there is reason to believe that the person may actually need one? Conversely, what about when someone asks for an interpreter, but he or she seems able to communicate adequately without one? What are the standards and guidelines for deciding if an interpreter is required?

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