Position Statement – 2012
A.6113 / S.1870
Oral Translation of Orders of Protection for Limited English Proficient Litigants and Witnesses
This bill would require courts to use a court-appointed interpreter to translate the essential terms of a temporary or final order of protection on the record. This bill would help to ensure that limited English proficient (LEP), Deaf or hearing impaired litigants better understand the substantive terms of the order issued by the court.
While New York courts are already required to provide for interpreters in proceedings involving LEP, Deaf, or hard of hearing litigants and witnesses, many courts have not traditionally utilized these interpreters to translate the detailed terms and conditions of orders of protection on the record. As a result, some LEP victims have not adequately enforced orders in their favor because they did not understand the provisions. Alternatively, some offenders have escaped accountability for violating orders issued against them based upon similar claims. While this bill does not require sight translation of all an order’s terms and conditions or translation of the actual order into hard copy, translation of the essential terms and conditions on the record by a court-appointed interpreter will provide these litigants and witnesses measurably increased relief.
While WBASNY supports this bill in the current fiscal climate, we also are concerned that more needs to be done to support these litigants. Regardless of their English language skills, court appearances can be confusing, stressful and traumatic for many victims of domestic violence, as well as offenders. A hard copy of the order of protection in their native language would help to ensure that all parties understand the entire order.
Further, the bill does not require translation of the entire order, only the “essential terms”. Orders of protection contain many terms and conditions and their issuance has many implications, both state and federal. WBASNY is concerned that what is deemed “essential” will vary from judge to judge and may neglect to include critical provisions, such as firearms restrictions and interstate recognition and enforcement.
Because orders of protection are also issued in Supreme Court, as well as in Criminal and Family Courts, WBASNY would like to see this bill amended to include translation of orders of protection in those proceedings as well.
WBASNY looks forward to further conversations with the bill sponsors or OCA to address our other concerns in a practical and fiscally responsible fashion.