victory.JPGI’m not just posting about Ling v. Georgia (PDF) because I’m her criminal appeals lawyer. Although it is pretty nice to have lost a motion for new trial and an appeal to the Georgia Court of Appeal and ultimely win in the Supreme Court on cert. while helping to secure a new substantive new substantive Constitutional right along the way. I think I’d be posting about this case even if I weren’t Mrs. Ling’s lawyer.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Georgia reversed the Georgia Court of Appeals and found that a criminal defendant has a Constitutional right to an interpreter. The Court also found that courts, when faced with an issue of whether an interpreter is needed, must make an explicit finding on the record on the issue.

The Court also rejected the notion that a trial attorney can unilaterally decide to forego an interpreter based upon a claim of trial strategy because a decision like that renders the client absent from her own trial.

The decision has gotten well-deserved coverage since yesterday. CNN posted an article on its Justice page. Kate Brumback posted a story on AP yesterday. CBS has a report of it as well.

It was a hard-fought victory. And I hope that the precedent assists other similarly-situated defendants in future cases.

If you’re interested in how we got here, my oral argument is available for viewing.


Immigrant.jpgDue Process comes at a price. According to Patrick Fox, in a recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it is expensive to provide interpreters for non-English-speaking defendants. In 2009, Gwinnett County paid $539,803 to provide interpreters. With a more diverse population comes an increased need for interpreters. Judge Davis of the Superior Court of Gwinnett County, estimates that interpreters have been provided in over 42 languages in 2009.


The Rosetta Stone Comment

Of course, it appears that the Constitution of the United States is being lost in translation to those responsible for funding court systems. One city council member said that he wishes that he had gotten the Rosetta Stone software because he believes the court interpreting is a “sweet gig.” Being a certified court interpreter is hard work, requiring proficiency in two languages, knowledge of the court system, and the ability to multi-task in a challenging often high stress environment. Buying some software from a kiosk at the mall probably won’t make you a certified court interpreter, but it might get you “close enough for government work” in some Georgia Courts, even if you are the arresting officer, a probation officer, or a co-defendant.


Continue Reading Local Politicians are Criticizing the High Costs of Interpreters