I hope that the day will come in which interpreter panels will be invited to continuing legal education conferences in order to give communication training to lawyers. Some of them really need it. This might come across better as stand-up comedy, or a YouTube video, but as a semi-anonymous blog, I am going to write out the script of two fairly typical presentations of the same information. I am not making this up or adding one single word to exaggerate the marked differences between these two extremes. These are true to life and any court interpreter will recognize them both among the many versions and variations we are called upon to interpret. The first version is spluttered out at around 150 words per minute with very few pauses, while the second is calmly and slowly presented at around 80 words a minute. Guess which version the interpreters prefer.
“Hi! My name is Bad Lawyer. We are going into hearing and I don’t have a lot of time. Basically, we probably need to ask for a continuance and that means you have to waive your right to speedy. Well not to speedy per se really but we have to extend the date to take you to trial. Let me finish! It’s a lot of information and I have to get through it. Where was I? Oh yeah, you have 60 days to go to trial if you are in custody, but you are not in custody so that means 90 days. That is if we do a continuance, well, then it would be longer. I mean, they can take you to trial sooner but they aren’t going to because they have other cases. Anyway I think I have the police report here – yeah, here it is. I can read it to you – actually, let me first tell you what the prosecution if offering, or well let’s start with your options for this hearing. I really think we have to continue as we just don’t have time to talk about the case now. I have eleven cases on this afternoon and I don’t know how I’m going to finish them. But it is up to you how to handle your case. I cannot tell you what to do. So you have to decide if you want a continuance or to plead guilty or how you want to proceed. No, I cannot tell you! You have to say. I can read you the offer but I don’t want to take the time to do that right now if you already know you don’t want to plead guilty today. You could also set for trial but you shouldn’t really set for trial unless you are sure that is what you want because then the prosecutor will not want to settle once they prepare, so the offer will probably go away, but then again it might not go away, so we just don’t know. And sometimes they add another charge if you don’t settle. I think the offer will hold if we just continue today. You know you can plead guilty today if you want to, is what I’m saying, that is your right, but they are asking for some jail time and since ICE is doing a run-through at the jails they might put an immigration hold on you because they do that to in-custodies, even if it is not a deportable defense on the list of crimes of moral turpitude, which I don’t think this one is, I am pretty sure it’s not, but I should check before you plead, if you plead that is. I am not saying you should plead, but that is up to you. But even then it is still, I mean your crime, it can still be used as a discretionary bar to immigration benefits, but anyway I don’t think they will pick you up because I think our county is not honoring ICE holds. But that can change at any time. So you need to understand that I cannot guarantee that you won’t be picked up and deported if you spend even one night in jail. But we might be able to get electronic home monitoring instead, but then that costs a lot of money and the judge doesn’t have to approve it so you can still be sent to jail so I don’t know if you want to do that, and then you have to have a home phone too, except I think they just started letting some people use a cell phone, but not if they have alcohol monitoring, so I want to be really clear on this because I just don’t know so I am not going to make something up. Oh! There is another option that is a dispo and you have to do a bunch of things like treatment and no new criminal law violations and change of address and a bunch of fines and fees and if you succeed they either lower or dismiss the charges after some period of time usually a year or two – but then if you miss just one thing in it the judge can just read the police report and find you guilty so that you waive your right to a trial if you take a deal like that. Oh! And they can order you to go to an eval and then you have to follow the recs even if it turns out they recommend two years of treatment and you have to pay for all that. So if you fail on just any one things of it then the judge can call you in for a revocation hearing pull the whole deal and you have a conviction, or they might just give you some small punishment and keep you on the dispo, but the punishment could be a few days in jail, that we could try to convert to work crew or something, but we aren’t going to know how that plays out and so be sure you keep your address updated with the court in case they have to send you a notice. But the deal the prosecutor is offering today is a straight guilty plea. But anyway look this is taking way too much time – it seems like you are still going back and forth on what you want so I would suggest that we are going to have to continue the hearing and you have to sign a speedy trial waiver and then they have 90 days from today to take you to trial, that is, unless we end up continuing again and that could happen because I have to consult with an immigration lawyer because there is case law on that so I have an obligation, but then this judge doesn’t like to give too many continuances so maybe we will go to trial within 90. Or it will be within 90 of the last continuance date, but we don’t know when that is. Oh! Here is the police report and I have to look to see if I have the video – we can view that in my office, but as far as testimony, I don’t know what witnesses they expect to have besides the police. They don’t have to tell me about their witnesses unless we set for trial but then if no witnesses show up sometimes the case gets dismissed but we cannot know if the witnesses will show up and if it is a police they get paid extra to show up so they are gonna show up. Unless something happens and they cannot show up. Speaking of the police, I can read you the police report now but there isn’t really time so you need to tell me what you want to do today, for today’s hearing. We really need to get in there – the judge is already calling for us and I don’t want her to get mad at me. You said before you might want to plead guilty so is that what you want to do now that I have explained it all clearly, or do you want more time to think about it? If you know what you want to do, maybe we should just do it, but you really shouldn’t plead until you have heard the main evidence so you know what your possible defenses could be, and then of course you know you have the right to go to trial – you can make the state prove each element of the crime against you beyond a reasonable doubt and you can just sit there – if they don’t prove the case they are supposed to acquit. You don’t have to prove you are innocent; they have to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But you never know what a jury is going to do, so it is a gamble. You might just want to plead guilty, but I don’t know if there will be time for you to do a guilty plea today because they have to ask you a bunch of questions, too. And then you would have to go to probation, maybe electronic home monitoring, and set up a payment plan, because you might be able to get a payment plan for court costs but they won’t let you do community service – you can ask to make payments over time – also I can do an indigency waiver and ask to have some of the fines waived but some cannot be waived and you have to swear under penalty of perjury that your income and expenses are what you say and then you can get checked up on so you need to be truthful. So what do you want to do in today’s hearing? We need to go! I cannot tell you what to do, my job is to just explain the options and then you have to decide. If I take you in on a guilty plea and the judge asks you if you understand everything and you say no, that is a problem for me because I can lose my bar card. I am signing off saying that I think you understand and I cannot say that if it is not true. And plus I need to double-check on the immigration thing. You have to know what you are doing and it is up to you. So what do you want to do in today’s hearing? What do you mean you are confused and want me to decide?! I cannot decide for you! I just told you what the law is and what your options are! That is my job. You need to try and really listen. This is your case, and you have to decide. So what do you want to do? You can’t just stare at me like a deer in the headlights and tell me to do whatever I think best! I can’t think for you! What part of ‘Your Decision’ don’t you understand?! What do you want to do? Should we do a continuance? You need to decide!”
“Hello, my name is Good Lawyer and I will be representing you throughout your case. Here is your interpreter, and everything we say is confidential. This is your first hearing after being charged with a crime. It is called a Pre-Trial Hearing. You have three choices today, the same three choices we all have if accused of a crime. One, you can ask to have the case set for trial. As you are out of custody, they have to take you to trial within 90 days of the start of your case. Two, you can plead guilty. And I will tell you in a moment the offer the prosecutor is making you if you plead guilty today. Third, you can ask for a continuance. With a continuance, we the defense ask for more time to investigate and negotiate. At the same time, we the defense give the government more time to take you to trial, if the case ends up going to trial. So the new start date would be today and they would have 90 days from today to take you to trial. It is up to you but I suggest we continue. I will read you the current offer but I don’t recommend that you take it today. Because it is an important decision. Once we have more information and you come to my office and go over the police report and other evidence, you can make a more informed decision about how you wish to proceed. There may be additional options, and I will also talk to you about potential immigration consequences. Questions?”