Need for qualified interpreters in the judicial system for the Hispanic population

Thumbnail Image
Issue Date
Hernandez, Daisey
Henderson, Julie
Del Águila, Rocío

Hernandez, Daisey. 2023. Need for qualified interpreters in the judicial system for the Hispanic population. -- In Proceedings: 19th Annual Symposium on Graduate Research and Scholarly Projects. Wichita, KS: Wichita State University


The United States has a large population of Hispanics with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), for whom interpretation services are provided in courtrooms, medical facilities, schools, and other government-funded locations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. However, many states do not require specific qualifications for court interpreters, assuming that interpreters only need to be bilingual and know the basic terminology of the field they are interpreting for. This assumption is dangerous and can be detrimental to the defendant. The lack of qualifications required for interpreters means that interpretation errors frequently go unnoticed by the court, potentially resulting in leading questions, longer trials, and wrongful convictions or unjust sentences. To address this issue, a qualitative analysis will be conducted on a Supreme Court case, official interpretations, and the coerciveness of leading questions to identify the skills and training required for court interpreters to become qualified. The Supreme Court case of United States v Dominguez Benitez illustrates the negative impact of unqualified interpreters. The LEP defendant was not provided with a qualified interpreter and was subjected to leading questions that resulted in a wrongful conviction and appeal. An analysis of the official interpretations and those leading questions demonstrates how easily the level of coerciveness can be changed. When poor interpretations are translated back into English, the meaning of the original is skewed, potentially leading to wrongful convictions. In addition, ethical dilemmas may arise when untrained interpreters accept cases for which they are not qualified, which can lead to confusion and mistranslations. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that court interpreters have the necessary qualifications and training to fulfill their responsibilities in the courtroom, safeguarding the rights of LEP defendants. The findings of this study will contribute to the development of effective interpreter training programs and policies.

Table of Content
Presented to the 19th Annual Symposium on Graduate Research and Scholarly Projects (GRASP) held at the Rhatigan Student Center, Wichita State University, April 14, 2023.
Research completed in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literature, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Science.