Legal Interpreters, Court Translation, Admissibility and Exclusion of Foreign Language Testimony

We’ve blogged about professional legal translation and court interpretation services, and proving translation accuracy in preliminary injunctions and trials. According to the Federal Rules of Evidence, evidence is relevant “if it has any tendency in reason to prove the existence of any material fact, i.e. it makes determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.” As a general rule, “all relevant evidence is admissible unless its admission violates some exclusionary rule.” One common exception is when evidence is excluded by the court’s discretion when its probative value is seen as being substantially outweighed by the danger that it will unfairly prejudice the other side or mislead the jury.

In cases involving then mental capacity of the witness, due to the stigma surrounding mental illness, the witness’s mental capacity is often judged likely to unfairly prejudice and, thus, outweigh the probative value of a mental health history in a case where the mental health history does not directly implicate the subject matter of the case.

But what about being a foreign language speaker who does not comprehend English? Is there a stigma attached to non-English speakers that may in some way cause unfair prejudice? And if so, is there a way to use a foreign language translation of the testimony so that the jury is not made aware of the witnesses’ foreign language trait? These are all legal questions open for the possibility of argument. Perhaps Federal Rule of Evidence 404 (character evidence) may form a foundation for argument?

To read our legal interpretation and legal translation blog post “What Trial Lawyers and Litigators Should Expect from a Deposition Interpreter”, click here.

Up Next: On-Site Legal Translators, Legal Interpreters Online, Foreign Language-Speaking Witnesses, Mental Capacity and Admissibility