Although the Federal Rules of Evidence are silent on the topic of using translations of foreign language documents
as evidence in civil or criminal cases, several states have adopted specialized rules governing this issue. Texas Rule of Evidence 1009 provides a general outline of how the Rules of Evidence apply to admitting and objecting to foreign language translations
as documentary evidence.
Using Texas Rule 1009
as an example, the following generalizations can be made:
- A translation of a foreign language document is generally admissible so long as it is accompanied by a sworn affidavit from a qualified foreign language translator. The affidavit must specifically state both the foreign language translator's qualifications and that the translation is fair and accurate.
- The original document, foreign language translation, and accompanying affidavit must be served on the other party in accordance with one's local rules (typically 45 days before trial).
- Objections to the translation of a foreign language document must specifically state the inaccuracies of the translation and what the objecting party believes to be a fair and accurate translation. Objections must be made in accordance with one's local rules (typically 15 days prior to trial).
- If no objection or conflicting evidence is offered, the court will admit the translation of the foreign language document without need for further proof, thus preventing any form of evidentiary attack during trial.
RULE 1009. TRANSLATION OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE DOCUMENTS
(a) Translations. A translation of foreign language documents shall be admissible upon the affidavit of a qualified translator setting forth the qualifications of the translator and certifying that the translation is fair and accurate. Such affidavit, along with the translation and the underlying foreign language documents, shall be served upon all parties at least 45 days prior to the date of trial.
(b) Objections. Any party may object to the accuracy of another party's translation by pointing out the specific inaccuracies of the translation and by stating with specificity what the objecting party contends is a fair and accurate translation. Such objection shall be served upon all parties at least 15 days prior to the date of trial.
(c) Effect of Failure to Object or Offer Conflicting Translation. If no conflicting translation or objection is timely served, the court shall admit a translation submitted under paragraph (a) without need of proof, provided however that the underlying foreign language documents are otherwise admissible under the Texas Rules of Evidence. Failure to serve a conflicting translation under paragraph (a) or failure to timely and properly object to the accuracy of a translation under paragraph (b) shall preclude a party from attacking or offering evidence contradicting the accuracy of such translation at trial.
(d) Effect of Objections or Conflicting Translations. In the event of conflicting translations under paragraph (a) or if objections to another party's translation are served under paragraph (b), the court shall determine whether there is a genuine issue as to the accuracy of a material part of the translation to be resolved by the trier of fact.
(e) Expert Testimony of Translator. Except as provided in paragraph (c), this Rule does not preclude the admission of a translation of foreign language documents at trial either by live testimony or by deposition testimony of a qualified expert translator.
(f) Varying of Time Limits. The court, upon motion of any party and for good cause shown, may enlarge or shorten the time limits set forth in this Rule.
(g) Court Appointment. The court, if necessary, may appoint a qualified translator, the reasonable value of whose services shall be taxed as court costs.
To read our legal translation blog entry "Admissibility of Telephonic Expert Witness Testimony by Foreign Language Translator/ Court Interpreter", click here
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