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Snyder: Remote Mediation for Non-English Speakers

By Teddy Snyder

Wednesday, January 13, 2021 | 147 | 0 | min read

You’re ready for your remote video mediation. Everyone has the latest version of the technology and knows how to join. You rehearsed with your client; maybe you did a practice session with the mediator. You submitted the mediation confidentiality form and contact form. Now you can concentrate on the facts and the law.

Teddy Snyder

Teddy Snyder

Wait — what about the interpreter?

At the beginning of every remote mediation, I confirm that everyone present has signed the confidentiality agreement. Yet sometimes, against all the rules, someone else is there. Often, it’s a family member who is “just there to interpret.”

It’s inconvenient, but perhaps not a major issue. Just as would happen with an in-person session, someone who has a role in the mediation can execute the confidentiality acknowledgement at the last minute. But some family members refuse documented participation in any court proceeding. Sometimes the party lacks the technology to return a signed document immediately.

Usually, the attorney can interpret for the client. Of course, the attorney is bound by confidentiality rules, but this arrangement often omits a few steps.

Get the client what he needs

An English language confidentiality agreement executed by a party who clearly needs an interpreter raises questions. Did the client sign a document without understanding it? If the attorney or a family member interpreted, that should be documented within the agreement. The person who interpreted should be a signatory to language similar to "I translated this document and read it to plaintiff in Spanish."

The settlement agreement

Attorneys on both sides of the conflict should be concerned about the validity of an English-language settlement agreement when one or more signatories are not fluent in English. Nobody wants to be in court after the fact because someone is contesting the agreement. The document should be read to the non-English speaker, and the interpreter needs to disclose and sign off on the settlement document.

Ideally, lawyers will also provide a written translation of the document. Google Translate can create it quickly, but not necessarily with 100% accuracy.

The ultimate protection is to bring in a certified court interpreter by video or telephone and at the time of signing the settlement document.

Attorney Teddy Snyder mediates workers' compensation cases throughout California. She can be contacted through WCMediator.com.

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