Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Interpreter Regulation has Changed in Florida's Courts

On March 31, 2015 the Florida Supreme Court rendered an opinion in 14-1055. I, like much of Florida, have been watching the court for a decision on Westphall or Castellanos. This one, 14-1055, slipped past me. Thanks to W. Rogers Turner for emailing and asking about it. 

This decision changes things with "court" interpreters. In this regard, it is important to remember that the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC) is an administrative agency, part of the Executive Branch. The Office of Judges of Compensation Claims is not a "court," but an administrative agency of the Executive branch. Therefore, the rules created by the Supreme Court are not binding on the process and procedure before the Judges of Compensation Claims except as incorporated into the workers' compensation rules. 

The Supreme Court has a variety of rules that do fall within its purview. The Rules of Civil Procedure and Rules of Judicial Administration among them. The Rules of Procedure for Workers' Compensation Adjudications (the "60Qs") incorporate some specific rules. For example, Rule 60Q6.114 incorporates the Rules of Civil Procedure regarding taking and using depositions, objections, protective orders, sanctions and more. And Rule 60Q6.126 incorporates Rule of Judicial Administration 2.330 regarding disqualification of judges. These are specific incorporations.

The Rules of Procedure for Workers' Compensation Adjudications do not incorporate the Florida Rules for Certification and Regulation of Spoken Language Court Interpreters, which is the subject of the March 31 decision. So, there is this entire set of rules focused on translation in legal disputes, but their applicability is to the court system and its disputes. Anyone involved in litigation outside of the workers' compensation area should be aware of these interpreter rules and the recent amendments. 

The Rules for Certification promulgated by the Supreme Court provide definitions and parameters. The 2015 amendments provide a "definition of the term 'court interpreter' that is more inclusive than previously understood." In the March 31 decision the Court also clarifies that these rules apply to court hearings, but also to "ancillary activities such as depositions, mediations, and other similar proceedings." So, there is more constraint on who can interpret and the restrictions apply to more than just courtroom situations. 

The result of these amendments will be that all court interpreters will register with the Office of State Courts Administrator (OSCA). The change will bring more persons into the scope of "interpreter" and will require their individual compliance with a Code of Professional Conduct, and subject them to disciplinary rules. In short, there is more structure coming to court interpretation.

The Supreme Court's stated goal of the changes is "to promote the use of more highly qualified interpreters when interpreters are privately retained as well as when they are court-appointed."

Recognizing that the Supreme Court's actions will change qualifications and processes for civil court case interpreters, the question for us is: "does the OJCC need a similar interpreter rule?" If so, should that rule be one adopting the Florida Rules for Certification and Regulation of Spoken Language Court Interpreters in manner similar to the adoption of the Civil Procedure rules and Rules of Judicial Administration? 

I would appreciate hearing from you regarding any thoughts you have on the subject. 




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