In re S.E. — Court May Require Sign Language Interpreter

In re S.E. was a termination of parental rights case during which the mother preferred to communicate orally, rather than through a sign language interpreter.  Originally the trial court agreed to mother’s preferred procedure.  However, after attempting to take testimony orally, the court determined that the mother could not be understood adequately and the court enlisted the aid of the interpreter.  The mother did not object to the interpretation procedure during the fact-finding hearing.  On appeal, the mother alleged that her due process rights were violated when she was forced to use an interpreter.

“Interpreters serve not only defendants, but our trial courts as well. In light of this dual duty, interpreters are often referred to as “defense interpreters,” who translate for the benefit of the defendant, or “proceedings interpreters.”  See Arrieta v. State, 878 N.E.2d 1238, 1242-44 (Ind. 2008).  Proceedings interpreters “serve[] judge, counsel, parties, and jury by translating to or from English during various events in a case.”  Id.  A proceedings interpreter may be required during “the taking of testimony” to ensure ” that the finder of fact hears all probative testimony, some of which might otherwise be unavailable or misconstrued.”  Id.”

Indiana Evidence Rule 611(a) allows that “[t]he court should exercise reasonable control over the mode and order of examining witnesses and presenting evidence so as to: (1) make those procedures effective for determining the truth; (2) avoid wasting time; and (3) protect witnesses from harassment or undue embarrassment.”  Therefore, the trial court was within its discretion in making the decision to require the use of an interpreter.  The Court of Appeals noted that they could “conceive of no other method the trial court could have used that would have ensured that it heard and understood Mother’s testimony.”

The trial court found that there was a reasonable probability that the conditions resulting in the child’s removal or the reasons for her placement outside the mother’s home would not be remedied, and that the termination of parental rights was in the child’s best interests.  The trial court’s decision were affirmed by the appellate court.

This entry was posted in Appeals, CHINS, Court Proceedings, TPR and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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