The ATA Chronicle - September/October 2020 - 30

WHAT I'VE LEARNED FROM REMOTE COURT INTERPRETING continued
■	

Appearances: Lots of people don't show up to remote
hearings; anecdotally, the no-show rate seems much higher
to me than the no-show rate for in-person hearings. Which
raises the question: If you don't show up to a remote hearing
because your phone battery died or you can't figure out
how to use Webex, should that constitute failure to appear?
Neither option seems like a good one: if it does constitute
failure to appear, is it really fair for someone to face an
additional charge because their phone battery died? If it
doesn't constitute failure to appear, what prevents people
from simply not showing up and claiming that they couldn't
log on to the remote system?

■	

Public participation and oversight: The fact that most
court cases are public is a really important component of the
U.S. legal system. I spent hours sitting in court and taking
notes when I was studying for the court interpreter exam,
and you see all kinds of people (reporters, family members,
law students, court reporting students, and interpreting
students) observing in court. Family court cases and some
others are closed to the public, but in my experience it's
quite common to see people watching court proceedings just
for their own interest or education. In a remote system, it's
not always clear how or if the public can participate.

■	

People not being in the same room: On several occasions
I've needed to sight-translate things like plea agreements.
Those have to be sent by email, sometimes through multiple
people instead of being passed across a table. Then the
defendants have to sign the agreements via Docusign,
which can be complicated since they're often using a
phone rather than a computer. To maintain the proper flow
of information (defendant-interpreter-district attorneyinterpreter-defendant), the interpreter has to interpret all of
those technical questions ("I don't see where I have to sign."
"There's no yellow box." "The submit button isn't working.")
rather than someone helping the person right there.

In many situations, I think that remote court interpreting
falls into the "better than no interpreting" category. If everyone
is patient and the technical side works out, things can go
pretty well. Using a purpose-built remote simultaneous
interpreting platform, which at least some court systems are
looking into, would make things even better. Still, I'm now
more convinced of the merits of bringing an interpreter from
an hour away to interpret for even short appearances, and I'm
looking forward to getting back to that at some point in the
perhaps-distant but hopefully possible future!
Corinne McKay, CT is a past president of ATA and
an ATA-certified French>English translator and
Colorado-certified French court interpreter with over
15 years of experience in the language professions. In
addition to her own work as a translator specializing in
international development, corporate communications,
and nonfiction books, she writes books and teaches courses for other
freelance translators. Her book How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator
has sold over 12,000 copies and has become a go-to reference for the
language professions. Her company Training for Translators offers online
professional development for translators and interpreters. She blogs at
www.trainingfortranslators.com/blog. Contact: corinne@translatewrite.com.
30

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