Various federal and state statutes in the United States define the role of the court interpreter with clear and unequivocal rules. This definition is based on the underlying principles of the U.S. legal system, which is derived from the Anglo-Saxon common-law tradition. Consequently, the distinctive features of that system, including the jury trial and the concept of adversarial proceedings, make the function of the court interpreter quite different from that of his/her counterparts in other countries. In recent years, the judiciary has made an effort to enhance the public's access to the justice system, but at the same time, the latest wave of immigration comprises individuals from societies in which cultural norms differ greatly from those of the United States. Moreover, many of these immigrants have received little or no formal education. As a result, judiciary interpreters feel somewhat constrained by the rules that govern their profession when they strive to bridge the cultural and linguistic gap. This paper reexamines the function of the court interpreter in light of these circumstances and an analysis of prevailing practices in other countries, and proposes a new approach to the interpreter's role.
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