Rules For Interpreters And Translators In Ohio Depositions

On occasion there will be a need to hire an interpreter or translator to assist during an Ohio deposition where the person being deposed does not speak English.  The rules regarding interpreter qualifications can vary greatly from state to state.  That is why it is important for Ohio lawyers to be familiar with Ohio law in regard to retaining an interpreter to assist in a deposition.

In sum, the interpreter needs to be able to meet the “qualification as an expert” standard under the Ohio Rules of Evidence.  Ohio Rule of Evidence 604, entitled “Interpreters,” states, “An interpreter is subject to the provisions of these rules relating to qualification as an expert and the administration of an oath or affirmation to make a true translation.”  The Staff Notes to Evidence Rule 604 State:

Rule 604 is identical to Federal Evidence Rule 604 and is in accord with prior Ohio law.

Under prior Ohio law, the qualifications of an interpreter in a court proceeding was a matter within the sound discretion of the court. Fennen v. State of Ohio (1903), 1 Ohio Cir. Ct. N.S. 32.  Rule 604 provides that the provisions of the rules relating to qualification of an expert are applicable to interpreters.  An expert is one qualified by knowledge, experience, training or education. See Rule 702.  Whether a witness qualifies as an expert is a matter for the determination of the court.

Under prior Ohio law, an interpreter was required to take an oath to translate properly to the witness and to the court. R.C. 2311.14(B). Rule 604 restates that requirement.

(End Staff Notes)

Ohio lawyers should also be aware of R.C. § 2311.14, entitled “Court appointment of interpreter,” which states:

(A) (1) Whenever because of a hearing, speech, or other impairment a party to or witness in a legal proceeding cannot readily understand or communicate, the court shall appoint a qualified interpreter to assist such person.  Before appointing any interpreter under this division for a party or witness who is a mentally retarded person or developmentally disabled person, the court shall evaluate the qualifications of the interpreter and shall make a determination as to the ability of the interpreter to effectively interpret on behalf of the party or witness that the interpreter will assist, and the court may appoint the interpreter only if the court is satisfied that the interpreter is able to effectively interpret on behalf of that party or witness.


(B) Before entering upon official duties, the interpreter shall take an oath that the interpreter will make a true interpretation of the proceedings to the party or witness, and that the interpreter will truly repeat the statements made by such party or witness to the court, to the best of the interpreter’s ability. If the interpreter is appointed to assist a mentally retarded person or developmentally disabled person as described in division (A)(2) of this section, the oath also shall include an oath that the interpreter will not prompt, lead, suggest, or otherwise improperly influence the testimony of the witness or party.

(C) The court shall determine a reasonable fee for all such interpreter service which shall be paid out of the same funds as witness fees.

R.C. § 2311.14(A)(1),(2),(B).

The case law in this area seems to routinely defer to the above evidence Rule and statute and then make a case-by-case determination as to whether the expert in the given case was qualified based on said Rule and statute.  Although Ohio does not have any official requirements for interpreting in legal proceedings, it is developing policy recommendations for using interpreters in state courts.  You should also note that Ohio also accepts certification from the NJITCE (National Judiciary Interpreter & Translator Certification Examination) and federal certification programs.

Ohio ranks interpreters in the following three ways:

1. Certified Interpreter: An interpreter who has passed either the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination or the Consortium test administered by a state judicial department.

2. Provisionally Qualified Interpreter: An interpreter who meets certain experience, training, and testing criteria, but who has not taken or passed a state or federal certification examination.

3. Language-Skilled Interpreter: An individual who lacks the training and testing to be a qualified interpreter, but has demonstrated, to the satisfaction of the court, the ability to interpret between English and a designated language and has met certain other criteria, such as attendance at a seminar on the Code of Ethics for Court Interpreters and court observation.

In sum, when the need to hire an interpreter arises, the minimum standard appears to be that Ohio lawyers need to find a non-biased and honest person who is fluent in the language such that the court would not have a problem qualifying the person as an expert under the Rules of Evidence.

If you have questions about this or any other legal issue, please feel free to contact the Ohio lawyers at the Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC at 419-241-1395 or 1-800-637-8170.

Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC