WSR 19-05-040
[February 6, 2019]
NO. 25700-A-1250
The Interpreter Commission, having recommended the expeditious adoption of the suggested amendments to GR 11.1Purpose and Scope of Interpreter Commission and GR 11.2Code of Professional Responsibility for Judiciary Interpreters, and the Court having considered the amendments, and having determined that the suggested amendments will aid in the prompt and orderly administration of justice;
Now, therefore, it is hereby
(a) That the suggested amendments as shown below are adopted.
(b) That pursuant to the emergency provisions of GR 9 (j)(l), the suggested amendments will be published expeditiously in the Washington Reports and will become effective upon publication.
dated at Olympia, Washington this 6th day of February, 2019.
Stephens, J.
Johnson, J.
Charlie Wiggins
Madsen, J.
Gonzalez, J.
Owens, J.
Gordon McCloud, J.
Fairhurst, C.J.
Yu, J.
(a) Purpose and Scope. This rule establishes the Interpreter Commission (Commission) and prescribes the conditions of its activities. This rule does not modify or duplicate the statutory process directing the Court Certified Interpreter Program as it is administered by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) (chapter 2.43 RCW). The Interpreter Commission will develop policies for the Interpreter Program and the Program Policy Manual, published on the Washington Court's website at, which shall constitute the official version of policies governing the Court Certified Interpreter Program.
(b) Jurisdiction and Powers.
All court interpreters who are credentialed by the State of Washington AOC in either a certified or registered language category are subject to the rules and regulations specified in the Interpreter Program Policy Manual.Every interpreter serving in a legal proceeding must comply with GR 11.2, the Code of Professional Responsibility for Judiciary Interpreters, and is subject to the rules and regulations specified in the Court Interpreter Disciplinary Policy Manual. The Commission shall establish three committees to fulfill ongoing functions related to issues, discipline, and judicial/court administration education. Each committee shall consist of at least three Commission members and one member shall be identified as the chair.
(1) The Issues Committee is assigned issues, complaints, and/or requests from interpreters for review and response. If the situation cannot be resolved at the Issues Committee level, the matter will be submitted by written referral to the Disciplinary Committee.
(2) The Issues Committee will also address issues, complaints, and/or requests regarding access to interpreter services in the courts, and may communicate with individual courts in an effort to assist in complying with language access directives required by law.
(3) The Disciplinary Committee may sanction any interpreter serving in a legal proceeding for a violation of GR 11.2, the Code of Professional Responsibility for Judiciary Interpreters, and has the authority to decertify or deny certification ofcredentials to interpreters based on the disciplinary procedures for: (a) violations of continuing education/court hour requirements, (b) failure to comply with Interpreter Code of ConductProfessional Responsibility for Judiciary Interpreters (GR 11.2) or professional standards, or (c) violations of law that may interfere with their duties as an interpreter in a legal proceedinga certified court interpreter. The Disciplinary Committee will decide on appeal any issues submitted by the Issues Committee.
(4) [Unchanged.]
(c) Establishment. The Supreme Court shall appoint no more than 15 members to the Interpreter Commission, and shall designate the chair of the Commission. The Commission shall include representatives from the following areas of expertise: judicial officers from the appellate and each trial court level (3), spoken language interpreter (2), sign language interpreter (1), court administrator (1), attorney (1), public member (2), representative from ethnic organization (1), an AOC representative (1), and other representatives as needed. The term for a member of the Commission shall be three years. Members are eligible to serve a subsequent 3-year term. Members shall serve on at least one committee and committees may be supplemented by ad hoc professionals as designated by the chair. Ad hoc members may not serve as the chair of a committee.
(d) Regulations. Policies outlining rules and regulations directing the interpreter program are specified in the Interpreter Program Manual. The Commission, through the Issues Committee and Disciplinary Committee, shall enforce the policies of the interpreter program. Interpreter program policies may be modified at any time by the Commission and AOC.
(e) Existing Law Unchanged. This rule shall not expand, narrow, or otherwise affect existing law, including but not limited to chapter 2.43 RCW.
(f) Meetings. The Commission shall hold meetings as determined necessary by the chair. Meetings of the Commission are open to the public except for executive sessions and disciplinary meetings related to action against a certifiedan interpreter.
(g) Immunity from Liability. No cause of action against the Commission, its standing members or ad hoc members appointed by the Commission, shall accrue in favor of a certified court interpreter or any other person arising from any act taken pursuant to this rule, provided that the Commission members or ad hoc members acted in good faith. The burden of proving that the acts were not taken in good faith shall be on the party asserting it.
GR 11.2
As officers of the court, interpreters must maintain high standards of professional conduct that promote public trust and confidence in the administration of justice. The purpose of this code is to establish standards of conduct that interpreters must abide by in order to preserve the integrity and independence of the judicial system. It establishes core ethical principles of interpreter conduct in all aspects of their profession.
PREAMBLE. All language interpreters serving in a legal proceeding, whether certified or uncertified, shall abide by the following Code of Conduct:
The text of each rule is authoritative, while the comments provide important guidance in understanding the rules.
All interpreters serving in the judicial system must abide by this Code of Professional Responsibility.
A language iInterpreters who violates any of the provisions of this code isare subject to a citation for contempt, disciplinary action and/or any other sanction that may be imposed by law. The purpose of this Code of Conduct is to establish and maintain high standardsof conduct to preserve the integrity and independence of the adjudicative system.
(a) A language interpreter, as an officer of the court, shall maintain high standards of personal and professional conduct that promote public confidence in the administration of justice.
(1) Source language – the original language of the writer or speaker.
(2) Target language– the language of the receiving reader or listener.
(3) Register – the degree of formality of language.
(4) Sight translation – the rendering of a written document directly into a spoken or signed language, not for purposes of producing a written document.
(b) A language interpreter shall interpret or translate the material thoroughly and precisely, adding or omitting nothing, and stating as nearly as possible what has been stated in the language of the speaker, giving consideration to variations in grammar and syntax for both languages involved. A language interpreter shall use the level of communication that best conveys the meaning of the source, and shall not interject the interpreter's personal moods or attitudes.
Interpreters must reproduce in the target language the closest natural equivalent of the source language message without altering it by means of addition, omission, or explanation.
(1)[1] Interpreters are obligated to conserve every element of information contained in the source and target languages. In doing so, they fulfill a twofold duty: (1) to ensure that legal proceedings reflect in English precisely what is said or signed by limited English proficient individuals and (2) to place limited English proficient individuals on an equal linguistic footing with those who are fully proficient in English.
(1)[2] Interpreters are required to apply their best skills and judgment to render, as faithfully as reasonably possible, the meaning of what is said or signed, preserving the style and register of speech, and the ambiguities and nuances of the source statement.
Everything must be interpreted, even if it appears nonresponsive, obscene, rambling, or incoherent. This includes false starts and apparent misstatements. However, verbatim, "word for word," or literal interpretation is inappropriate if it distorts the meaning of what is said or signed.
Spoken language interpreters should convey the speaker's tone without reenacting or mimicking the speaker's emotions or dramatic gestures. Sign language interpreters, on the other hand, should employ visual cues, including facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures, which are structural elements of sign languages.
(1)[3] Interpreters have the duty to immediately address any situation or condition that impedes their ability to accurately interpret. Examples include, but are not limited to, linguistic ambiguities, unfamiliar terms, inaudible speech, inability to see a speaker, background noise or distraction, and pace of speech.
(1)[4] The obligation to preserve accuracy includes the interpreter's duty to correct any substantive errors of interpretation as soon as possible. Interpreters should be prepared to accept feedback, including challenges to their interpretation, in a professional and impersonal manner.
(1)[5] Due to the difficulty of extemporaneously interpreting recordings (such as 911 calls), the practice of doing so in court should be discouraged at all times. Rather, proper transcripts and corresponding written translations should be prepared in advance. If ordered by the presiding officer to interpret a recording in court, interpreters should comply but state, on the record, that they cannot guarantee the accuracy of the interpretation.
(1)[6] Interpreters should refrain from sight translating documents for the record. Rather, written translations of documents offered in an evidentiary hearing should be prepared in advance. If ordered by the presiding officer to sight translate such documents, interpreters should comply but state, on the record, that they cannot guarantee the accuracy of the sight translation.
(1)[7] The ethical responsibility to interpret accurately includes being prepared for assignments. Interpreters are encouraged to obtain documents and other information necessary to familiarize themselves with the nature and purpose of an assignment. Prior preparation is described below; it is especially important when testimony or documents include highly specialized terminology and subject matter.
Preparation may include but is not limited to:
(i) reviewing relevant documents, such as criminal complaints, police reports, briefs, witness lists, jury instructions, prior depositions, etc.;
(ii) asking interpreters previously involved in the case for information on language use or style; or
(iii) asking attorneys involved in the case for additional relevant information.
Interpreters must not knowingly accept any assignment beyond their skill level. If at any point, before or during an assignment, they have(c) When a language interpreter has any reservations about their ability to satisfy an assignment competently, they mustthe interpreter shall immediately disclose thisconvey that reservation to allthe parties and, if applicable, to the court. If the communication mode or language of the non-English speaking person cannot be readily interpreted, the interpreter shall notify the appointing authority or the court.
In their professional capacity, interpreters must not give legal or other advice or engage in any activity that may be construed as a service other than interpreting or translating.
(2)[1] Interpreters are duty bound to inquire about the assignment in advance and assess their competence to render services.
(2)[2] Interpreters are not qualified to give written or oral counsel about a legal matter that could affect the rights and responsibilities of the person receiving the advice. GR 24 sets forth what constitutes the practice of law.
(2)[3] Interpreters should maintain and expand competence in their field through professional development. Professional development includes steady practice, professional training, ongoing education, terminology research, regular and frequent interaction with colleagues and specialists in related fields, and staying abreast of new technologies, current issues, laws, policies, rules, and regulations that affect their profession.
(2)[4] Interpreters should know and follow established protocols for delivering interpreting services. When speaking in English, interpreters should speak at a volume that enables them to be heard throughout the courtroom. They should interpret in the first person and refer to themselves in the third person.
Interpreters have an inviolable duty to provide honest services in which their behavior upholds the values outlined in this code. They must accurately represent their credentials, training, and relevant experience. Interpreters must not engage in conduct that impedes their compliance with this code or allow another to induce or encourage them to violate the law or this code.
(3)[1] It is essential that interpreters present a complete and truthful account of their credentials, training, and relevant experience prior to an assignment so that their ability to satisfy it competently can be fairly evaluated.
Interpreters must faithfully render the source message without allowing their own views to interfere. They must refrain from conduct that may give an appearance of bias and must disclose any real or potential conflict of interest to all parties and the court, if applicable, as soon as they become aware of it.
(4)[1] Interpreters should strive for professional detachment. They should uphold impartiality by avoiding verbal and nonverbal displays of personal attitudes, prejudices, emotions, or opinions. Interpreters must faithfully render all statements, even those they find personally objectionable, without allowing their own views or opinions to interfere.
(4)[2] As officers of the court, interpreters serve the court and the public, regardless of whether publicly or privately retained. Interpreters must uphold neutrality by avoiding any behavior that creates the appearance of favoritism toward anyone. Interpreters should maintain professional relationships with persons using their services, discourage personal dependence on the interpreter, and avoid participation in the proceedings in any capacity other than providing interpreter services. During the course of the proceedings, interpreters should not converse with parties, witnesses, jurors, attorneys, or friends or relatives of any party, except in the discharge of their official functions.
(4)[3] Interpreters must not serve in any matter in which they have an interest, financial or otherwise, in the outcome, unless a specific exception is allowed by the judicial officer for good cause and noted on the record. Interpreters must not solicit or accept gifts or gratuities from any of the parties, even as a social courtesy, in order to maintain the appearance of neutrality. Interpreters must disclose to the parties and/or the court any circumstance that creates a potential conflict of interest, including but not limited to the following:
(i) the interpreter is a friend, associate, or relative of a party, witness, victim, or counsel;
(ii) the interpreter or the interpreter's friend, associate, or relative has a financial interest in the case at issue, a shared financial interest with a party to the proceeding, or any other interest that might be affected by the outcome of the case;
(iii) the interpreter has served in an investigative capacity for any party involved in the case;
(iv) the interpreter has previously been retained by a law enforcement agency to assist in the preparation of the criminal case at issue;
(v) the interpreter is an attorney in the case at issue; or
(vi) the interpreter has previously been retained for employment by one of the parties.
The existence of any one of the abovementioned circumstances should be evaluated by the parties and the court but should not automatically disqualify an interpreter from providing services. If an actual or perceived conflict of interest exists, the appropriate authorities should determine whether it is appropriate for the interpreter to withdraw based on the totality of the circumstances.
(d) No language interpreter shall render services in any matter in which the interpreter is a potential witness, associate, friend, or relative of a contending party, unless a specific exception is allowed by the appointing authority for good cause noted on the record. Neither shall the interpreter serve in any matter in which the interpreter has an interest, financial or otherwise, in the outcome. Nor shall any language interpreter serve in a matter where the interpreter has participated in the choice of counsel.
(5) CONFIDENTIALITY Interpreters must not divulge privileged or other confidential information obtained in their professional capacity. They must refrain from making any public statement on matters in which they serve.
(e) Except in the interpreter's official capacity, no language interpreter shall discuss, report, or comment upon a matter in which the person serves as interpreter. Interpreters shall not disclose any communication that is privileged by law without the written consent of the parties to the communication, or pursuant to court order.
(5)[1] Privileged communications take place within the context of a protected relationship, such as that between an attorney and client, a husband and wife, a priest and penitent, and a doctor and patient. The law often protects against forced disclosure of such conversations. Interpreters are bound to maintain the confidentiality of all privileged communications.
(5)[2] Interpreters are also routinely privy to communications that, while not necessarily privileged by law, are conveyed in confidence. In order to preserve the integrity of the judicial process, interpreters have an ongoing duty to refrain from disclosing information obtained in their professional capacity. This duty is consistent with CJC 2.10.
(f) A language interpreter shall report immediately to the appointing authority in the proceeding any solicitation or effort by another to induce or encourage the interpreter to violate any law, any provision of the rules which may be approved by the courts for the practice of language interpreting, or any provisions of this Code of Conduct.
(g) Language interpreters shall not give legal advice and shall refrain from the unauthorized practice of law.
[Adopted effective November 17, 1989. Original Rule 11.1 was renumbered as Rule 11.2 effective September 1, 2005; amended effective April 26, 2016.]
Reviser's note: The brackets and enclosed material in the text of the above section occurred in the copy filed by the agency and appear in the Register pursuant to the requirements of RCW 34.08.040.