Standard of Review for Appealing Foreign Language Translation Errors

How to Appeal Incorrect Translation

Bringing an appeal on the grounds of an erroneous foreign language live courtroom translation, or foreign language interpreting in court, is a difficult standard to satisfy. First, just as with any argument for appeal, the appealing party must show that the error was in fact controlling as to the final decision, and not merely a trivial error.

In particular to foreign language translation errors, showing that a foreign language judicial interpreter had “difficulty in translating the testimony, without more, is insufficient to rebut the presumption that he or she has acted properly.” Saunders v. Commonwealth of Virginia (Ct. App. Va. 2002).

In fact, it is the trial judge who is responsible for determining the accuracy of a foreign language court interpreting and translation. His or her decision is given considerable deference on appeal as it is the presiding judge who determines “the veracity of the proceedings before him”. Stubblefield v. Commonwealth, 10 Va. App. 343, 350, 392 S.E.2d 197, 200 (1990).

In other words, the standard of review is whether or not the trial judge correctly determined that the foreign language interpreter was performing the court interpreter’s duties satisfactorily by providing a foreign language translation with a reasonable degree of accuracy during court proceedings.

Thus, to prevail in an appeal based on an error in a foreign language courtroom translation, the appealing party must establish that the trial judge erred in his or her judgment.

To read our earlier legal translation blog entry “Foreign Language Interpreters- Appealing Points of Law Pertaining to Appointment of a Court Interpreter”, click here.

To read “Translation of Court Documents in Judicial Proceedings Instituted by the United States”, click here.


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