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The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that non-English speaking citizens have the right to serve on state-court juries, with proceedings to delay if necessary to find an interpreter. [AP]

I once took a deposition of a Japanese executive in an antitrust dispute. Simultaneous translation by an interpreter is expensive and logistically difficult; either one needs to take frequent breaks or have a rotating team of interpreters. And the opposing counsel had their own interpreter on hand to make sure that my interpreter wasn't playing fast and loose or making mistakes—what protections will both sides have that the interpreter is fairly conveying testimony and argument?

The decision seems to be a quirk of the New Mexico state constitution, but it also seems to run afoul of federal constitutional jury-trial rights. A savvy defense counsel confronted with a juror who needs an interpreter will want to ensure a free bite at the apple and preserve a constitutional challenge to having someone not conversant in English deciding a client's fate.

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Isaac Gorodetski
Project Manager,
Center for Legal Policy at the
Manhattan Institute
igorodetski@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

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