Federal Criminal Defense Investigation attended the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) Conference this weekend in Orlando to address a new and emerging field for interpreters, that of acting as interpreter/investigators. NAJIT a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the profession of judiciary interpretation and legal translation. More on the topic soon, but it did get us talking about ethical rules and guidelines for Interpreters. NAJIT has its own ethical code for court interpreters, and most courts do as well but what about this new role, especially within the confines of the indigent defense office which often hires a staff interpreter that also acts as an investigator? Here is something located on the fly after a long flight from the Utah Courts on this dual role: full discussion here.
May an interpreter ethically accept investigative work with a contract public defender, even if the work subsequently requires testimony in court about the matter investigated?
An interpreter may ethically serve as an investigator and testify in court. However, subsequent interpreting work may be limited.
By acting as an investigator, the interpreter performs a different role for the party that has contracted for the investigative services. As an investigator, the individual is aligned with the party seeking the investigative services. The investigator becomes an advocate for that party. If an interpreter performs investigative services for a contract public defender's office, the interpreter can not interpret in any future cases involving that public defender's office. The same would be true if the interpreter conducted investigative work on behalf of the prosecution. Having aligned with an adversarial party, in the biased role of an investigator, the interpreter could not then serve as an unbiased interpreter in a proceeding involving that party. The code thus does not prohibit an interpreter from becoming an investigator, but the code limits the interpreter's work after that time.