How to Work with a Remote Interpreter in a Virtual Hearing

remote interpreter

As social distancing requirements remain in effect due to COVID-19, courts across the U.S. have switched to virtual hearings to uphold justice and protect participants. Judges, attorneys, and clients are logging on and dialing into virtual courtrooms every day. Yet parties who have limited English proficiency (LEP) or use American Sign Language (ASL) also need remote interpreters to ensure justice is served.   

Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) or Over the Phone Interpreting (OPI)?


When it comes to remote interpreting, you have two options: video remote and over the phone. So, which should you choose? The answer is: it depends.

VRI offers several advantages over OPI because it:

  • Allows you to verify the identity of the court interpreter and other parties involved.
  • Makes it easier to determine which participant is speaking.
  • Allows the interpreter to evaluate facial expressions and body language.
  • Allows an ASL interpreter to assist a deaf participant remotely.

However, VRI isn’t always the right option. Here are two scenarios where OPI is likely your best bet:

  • The participant who needs an interpreter doesn’t have a smartphone or computer to log into a video conference. If they call in with a traditional cell phone or landline, a well-trained interpreter will have no trouble assisting over the phone.
  • You’re located in a rural area and the internet connection doesn’t meet the bandwidth and speed requirements to conduct a video conference. Although a frozen screen or time lag may seem like just an annoyance, it can affect the interpreter’s ability to accurately translate between languages.

Once you decide which type of interpreting to use, you may need to determine how to provide parties with virtual spaces to communicate privately.


Addressing Privacy Issues in Virtual Hearings


As with hearings in the courtroom, virtual hearings require varying levels of privacy between parties. The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) suggests two ways of creating it in a virtual courtroom:

  • Set up a waiting room for participants who have logged in, but don’t need to join yet. This lets you to decide who enters and when. Let’s say a witness needs an interpreter. Both parties can log in and stay in the waiting room until called.
  • Set up a private chatroom for an attorney, their client, and the interpreter. This will allow the client and lawyer to step out of the virtual courtroom and have a private conversation.

If an attorney’s client is incarcerated, the judge should send a notice to the jail to request a confidential hearing. That means the client should be moved to a private area while participating.


The Future of Virtual Hearings


Although virtual hearings are new in many jurisdictions, participants have discovered they’re more efficient for certain types of cases. While courtrooms work out the details to provide a better experience, remote interpreters are well prepared to assist in a virtual setting.

For more information about court interpreting, contact Boostlingo today.