December 03, 2012 Articles

The Fine Art of Litigation Involving Non-English-Speaking Witnesses

In the great performance that is a trial, calling a witness that does not speak English demands a carefully choreographed dance between lawyer, witness, and interpreter.

By Erika Ronquillo

A trial is often analogized to a performance. Naturally then, the courtroom becomes the stage and we are cast as both actor and director. If lawyering is a theatrical performance and our audience is the jury, how do we handle actors unable to speak or understand English? As the ever-growing melting pot of international flavors that is our great country makes its way to the witness stand, we must adapt and adjust the script accordingly.

The very tenets of the art of lawyering are called into question the moment a non-English-speaking (NES) witness steps onto the stage.  Avoiding a jury’s “two thumbs down” verdict boils down to your ability to adapt in foreign scenarios.  In the following article, we will examine three of the most challenging aspects of litigation involving a NES witness: the deposition preparation session, taking the deposition, and cross-examination. Keep in mind that when I discuss the NES witness throughout this article, I am talking implicitly about Spanish-speaking witnesses. Primarily, to keep it simple, but also because I have the most experience dealing with Spanish-speaking witnesses. Nonetheless, my advice is transferable to your encounters with most any NES witness.

Premium Content For:
  • Litigation Section
Join - Now