Legal Interpreters, Equal Protection
and Jury Selection

Legal Interpreting Services in Jury Trials

Legal interpreting services in all languages are often required in jury trials.  According to the U.S. Supreme Court, an attorney can exercise a peremptory challenge to remove a bilingual juror from the jury panel in today’s multilingual America.

According to Hernandez v. New York, 500 U.S. 352 (1991), such a removal does not violate the Equal Protection Clause.

In Hernandez, the attorney’s reason for removing the bilingual jurors was his concern they would do their own interpreting of the testimony instead of deferring to the rendition provided by the official court interpreter.

The Court found that because the removal was based on a race-neutral concern for the jurors’ responses and demeanor and not their language proficiency alone, the required racially discriminatory intent or purpose did not exist.

It should be noted that as the law stands now, whenever a case involves the use of a court interpreter and a juror understands the foreign language testimony of the witness, that juror can be removed from the jury panel.

As the result of this rule, foreign-language speaking ethnic groups, such as Hispanics, are often unable to have a trial before their peers because their peers can be legally removed from the jury due to the sharing of a language.

Up Next: Language Interpreters, and Mediating Cross-Cultural Disputes