The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2023 - 15

electrician, you'll be liable
for whatever harm your
dog inflicted. A duty of care
is defined by each specific
circumstance that imposes
an obligation on one person
to prevent some harm from
befalling another person.
In general terms, duty
of care is a moral or
legal obligation owed to
another person who has a
corresponding right. From a
legal standpoint, it is:
" a requirement that a
person act toward others
and the public with the
watchfulness, attention,
caution, and prudence that
a reasonable person in
the circumstances would
use. If a person's actions
do not meet this standard
of care, then the acts are
considered negligent, and
any damages resulting
may be claimed in a
lawsuit for negligence. " 1
For those various duties of
care we all have in different
aspects of our lives, the
applicable standard of care
is going to be defined by
the best practices for each
situational context. In more
general terms, as stated
above, standard of care is
defined as " the watchfulness,
attention, caution, and
prudence that a reasonable
person in the circumstances
would exercise. " 2
The concept of a judiciary
interpreter's duty of care
toward limited-Englishproficient
(LEP) clients is
a subject that doesn't get
addressed, which makes
it a very difficult topic to
research. There is no case
law; no interpreter has ever
been sued for negligence
or malpractice. I bring up
the subject in the hopes
www.ata-chronicle.online
of provoking an open and
honest discussion that
contributes to the best
standards of practice in
the profession.
Most of the literature and
legal opinions on duty of care
have to do with doctors. It's
very difficult to extrapolate
this information from doctors
to interpreters because we
don't have advanced degree
programs for all interpreting
domains, we don't have a
uniform licensing system, and
we don't have a disciplinary
board. To arrive at some
definition of a judiciary
interpreter's duty of care, I
have to work my way back
from a conceptual standard of
care. I'm limiting the scope of
this analysis to interpreters in
legal settings because-just
like all other duties of care-
the standard of care is going
to be determined by the best
practices in each interpreting
domain, so the duty of care
for a health care interpreter
is going to be different from
educational interpreters, and
so forth.
Meaningful
Language Access
In the legal domain, the
interpreter's duty of care
goes hand in hand with the
LEP individual's right to
have meaningful language
access. This right is derived
from the Civil Rights Act
of 19643
and Executive
Order 131664
for civil and
administrative proceedings
(in state courts they apply
to criminal proceedings
as well). In federal courts,
the right stems from
the U.S. Constitution's
Sixth Amendment5
due
process clause, Fourteenth
Amendment6
equal
protection clause, and the
Fifth Amendment7
fair
trial clause. This right
to meaningful language
access should provide the
foundation for judiciary
interpreters' duty of care.
However, the concept of
" meaningful language
access " has not been clearly
defined. This notion was
initially incorporated into
the guidance issued by the
U.S. Department of Justice
to implement Title VI of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964
pursuant to Executive Order
13166's mandate, which
was directed at recipients of
federal financial assistance
to " ensure meaningful
access to their programs
and activities by persons
with limited English
proficiency. " 8
A duty of care
is defined by
each specific
circumstance
that imposes an
obligation on
one person to
prevent some
harm from
befalling some
other person.
In that original
context, " meaningful "
appears to be referring to
something purposeful,
useful, or consequential.
The word " access " also
appears to be used in its
plain sense of having some
means of approaching
something or being able to
use or obtain something.
In 2012, the American
Bar Association published
its Standards for Language
Access in Courts. There are
two definitions contained in
those standards pertinent to
our conversation:
Meaningful Access: The
provision of services in
a manner that allows a
meaningful opportunity to
participate in the service
or program free from
intentional and unintentional
discriminatory practices.9
Language Access: The
provision of the necessary
services for LEP persons to
American Translators Association 15
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The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2023

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