As Claudia Johnston points out in a Comment, the Supreme Court has (6-3) come up with a narrow definition of “interpreting” in a cost shifting statute, excluding translation of documents. The decision, TANIGUCHI v. KAN PACIFIC SAIPAN, LTD, is here.
It seems to me that it does not generally serve the cause of access to justice for the word “interpret” to have a narrow legal definition, and I still fail to understand why the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, and a group of academics filed briefs supporting a narrow definition.
I fear this decision, in which Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justices Sotomayor and Breyer, dissented, will be used against access to broad language services. I hope, given the DOJ position, that the effect will be to shift costs to the courts, rather than to cut off the access rights of those with limited English. We’ll see.
The New York Times agrees describing the decision as “disappointing” in an editorial.
A persistent problem in American courts is the lack of translators to ensure that litigants who don’t speak or read English can take part in their cases. That’s the purpose of the Court Interpreters Act of 1978, which allows federal courts to order losing parties to pay prevailing parties the cost of interpreters.
In a disappointing 6-to-3 ruling, the Supreme Court defined “interpreter” narrowly to mean “one who translates orally from one language to another.”