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December 15, 2005
Use of interpreters instructions

At the request of the Florida Supreme Court, the Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases has submitted to the Court a report proposing alternative Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases on the use of interpreters in civil cases. The court invites all interested persons to comment on the committee’s proposals, which are reproduced in full below, as well as online at www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/proposed.shtml. An original and nine paper copies of all comments must be filed with the court on or before January 17, 2006, with a certificate of service verifying that a copy has been served on Scott D. Makar, Committee Chair, 117 West Duval Street, Suite 480, Jacksonville 32202, as well as a separate request for oral argument if the person filing the comment wishes to participate in oral argument, which may be scheduled in this case. Electronic copies of all comments also must be filed in accordance with the Court’s Administrative Order In Re: Mandatory Submission of Electronic Copies of Documents, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC04-84 (Sept. 13, 2004).

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA
IN RE: STANDARD JURY INSTRUCTIONS IN CIVIL CASES (NO. 05-1), CASE NO. SC05-1999
PROPOSAL A-1
USE OF INTERPRETERS
a. Preliminary Instruction:
During this trial, it is possible that one or more witnesses may testify in [identify language(s)] [a language other than English]. Although some of you may know [identify language] [the language a witness uses], it is important that all jurors consider the same evidence. The only evidence you may consider, therefore, is that provided through the official court interpreter(s). You must base your decision only on this official English translation and disregard any contrary meaning of the [identify language] [non-English] words a witness uses.
b. Just Before Witness Testifies:
The law requires that the court appoint a qualified interpreter to assist a witness who [does not readily speak or understand the English language] [has an impairment of hearing or speech] in testifying. The interpreter in this case is [name of interpreter ]. [He][She] does not work for either side in this case and is completely neutral in the matter. [He][She] is here solely to assist us in communicating with the witness. [He][She] will repeat only what is said and will not add, omit, or summarize anything. The interpreter’s oath will now be administered to the [him][her].
c. Oaths to Interpreter/Witness:
(Oath to Interpreter): Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will make a true interpretation to the witness of all questions or statements made to [him][her] in a language which that person understands, and interpret the witness’s statements into the English language, to the best of your abilities, So Help You God?
The oath will now be administered to the witness through the interpreter.
d. After Oath Has Been Given:
You are about to hear testimony of a witness who will be speaking in [identify language]. The witness will testify through the official court interpreter, who will translate the testimony into English. You may only consider the official English translation in deciding your verdict. Some of you may understand [identify language] and may have a question as to the accuracy of the English translation. It is important, however, that all jurors consider the same evidence. Therefore, you must rely only upon the official English translation as evidence in this case and disregard any other contrary interpretation that might be given to the testimony.
e. Final Instruction:
During this trial, [a witness] [some witnesses] testified in [identify language(s)]. Although some of you may know [identify language(s)], it is important that all jurors consider the same evidence. The only evidence you may consider, therefore, is that provided through the official court interpreter(s). You must base your decision only on this official English translation and disregard any contrary meaning of the [identify language] [non-English] words a witness used.
PROPOSAL A-2
USE OF INTERPRETERS
a. Preliminary Instruction:
During this trial, it is possible that one or more witnesses may testify in [identify language(s)] [a language other than English]. Although some of you may know [identify language] [the language a witness uses], it is important that all jurors consider the same evidence. The only evidence you may consider, therefore, is that provided through the official court interpreter(s). You must base your decision only on this official English translation and disregard any contrary meaning of the [identify language] [non-English] words a witness uses.
b. Just Before Witness Testifies:
The law requires that the court appoint a qualified interpreter to assist a witness who [does not readily speak or understand the English language] [has an impairment of hearing or speech] in testifying. The interpreter in this case is [name of interpreter ]. [He][She] does not work for either side in this case and is completely neutral in the matter. [He][She] is here solely to assist us in communicating with the witness. [He][She] will repeat only what is said and will not add, omit, or summarize anything. The interpreter’s oath will now be administered to the [him][her].
c. Oaths to Interpreter/Witness:
(Oath to Interpreter): Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will make a true interpretation to the witness of all questions or statements made to him/her in a language which that person understands, and interpret the witness’s statements into the English language, to the best of your abilities, So Help You God?
The oath will now be administered to the witness through the interpreter.
d. After Oath Has Been Given:
You are about to hear testimony of a witness who will be speaking in [identify language]. The witness will testify through the official court interpreter, who will translate the testimony into English. You may only consider the official English translation in deciding your verdict. Some of you may understand [identify language] and may have a question as to the accuracy of the English translation. It is important, however, that all jurors consider the same evidence. Therefore, you must rely only upon the official English translation as evidence in this case and disregard any other contrary interpretation that might be given to the testimony.
e. Juror Questions:*
If you have a question as to the accuracy of the English translation of a witness’s testimony, you may bring this matter to my attention by raising your hand. You should not ask your question or make any comment about the translation in the presence of the other jurors, or otherwise share your question or concern with any of them. I will take steps to see if your question can be answered and any discrepancy resolved. If, however, after such efforts a discrepancy remains in your mind, I emphasize that you must rely only upon the official English translation as provided by the official court interpreter, and disregard any other contrary interpretation.
* Refer to Note on Use
f. Final Instruction:
During this trial, [a witness] [some witnesses] testified in [identify language(s)]. Although some of you may know [identify language(s)], it is important that all jurors consider the same evidence. The only evidence you may consider, therefore, is that provided through the official court interpreter(s). You must base your decision only on this official English translation and disregard any contrary meaning of the [identify language] [non-English] word a witness used.
NOTE ON USE.
1. General concerns over the ability of bi-lingual jurors to set aside their own understanding of what a non-English speaking witness has said, in favor of the official English interpretation, can be addressed by full inquiry into the issue during jury selection. As an additional safeguard to ensure accurate and fair proceedings, the court may wish to have a procedure for bi-lingual jurors to question the accuracy of the official English interpretation. There are several procedures or methods that may be used for this purpose (e.g. written questions by jurors reviewed by the court, attorneys, and interpreter outside the presence of the jurors; conference at side bar or in chambers with the juror, attorneys and court interpreter; or some combination thereof). The Committee has not set forth any specific procedure to allow flexibility in this regard. The important thing is that the method chosen be sufficiently discreet to insure that the juror does not share his or her concerns with other jurors. The court should also assure itself that the juror has the ability and commitment to base his or her decision only upon the official English translation, even if there remains a question or disagreement in the juror’s mind as to its accuracy.

[Revised: 10-21-2014]