Court Interpreters, Non-English Speakers and Good Faith Participation

We’ve blogged about foreign language interpreters, medical examinations and the Rules of Evidence. In an Illinois case, the question to the court was whether or not a non-English speaking defendant failed to participate in good faith and in a meaningful manner at a mandatory-arbitration hearing and thus violated the notice to appear by failing to provide a foreign-language interpreter so she could testify.

According to the facts, the defendant did personally appear at the hearing but was unable to testify due to her inability to understand English.

According to the lower court, it was held that the defendant failed to participate in the arbitration in good faith as they failed to produce a witness competent to testify and failed to present any evidence to counter plaintiff’s claim – all because they failed to bring a court interpreter.

However, on appeal, the court ruled that a defendant does not have to hire an interpreter to assist plaintiff’s efforts to prove their case. If a defendant does not provide a foreign language interpreter and a plaintiff desires to examine defendant as an adverse witness, plaintiff should bear the cost of a court interpreter.

So long as notice is given that defendant will not be able to testify in English and that no interpreter will be provided, no violation of any rules would have occurred.

See State Farm Insurance v. Kazakova, (Ct. Ap. Cook County, 1998).

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