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South Carolina
JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
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RULE 3
IMPARTIALITY AND AVOIDANCE OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Interpreters shall be impartial and unbiased and shall refrain from conduct that may give an appearance of bias. Interpreters shall disclose any real or perceived conflict of interest.

Commentary

The interpreter serves as an officer of the court and the interpreter's duty in a court proceeding is to serve the court and the public to which the court is a servant. This is true regardless of whether the interpreter is publicly retained at government expense or retained privately at the expense of one of the parties.

The interpreter should avoid any conduct or behavior that presents the appearance of favoritism toward any of the parties. Interpreters should maintain professional relationships with their clients, and should not take an active part in any of the proceedings. The interpreter should discourage a non-English speaking party's personal dependence.

During the course of the proceedings, interpreters should not converse with parties, witnesses, jurors, attorneys, or with friends or relatives of any party, except in the discharge of their judicial functions. It is especially important that interpreters, who are often familiar with attorneys or other members of the courtroom work group, including law enforcement officers, refrain from casual and personal conversations with anyone in court that may convey an appearance of a special relationship or partiality to any of the court participants.

The interpreter should strive for professional detachment. Verbal and non-verbal displays of personal attitudes, prejudices, emotions, or opinions should be avoided at all times.

Should an interpreter become aware that a proceeding participant views the interpreter as having a bias or being biased, the interpreter should disclose that knowledge to the presiding judge. Any condition that interferes with the objectivity of an interpreter constitutes a conflict of interest and must be disclosed to the judge. An interpreter should not serve in any matter in which payment for their services is contingent upon the outcome of the case.

Before providing services in a matter, court interpreters must disclose to all parties and the presiding judge any prior involvement, whether personal or professional, that could be reasonably construed as a conflict of interest. This disclosure should not include privileged or confidential information.

The following are circumstances that create potential conflicts of interest that must be disclosed:
(1) The interpreter is a friend, associate, or relative of a party or counsel for a party involved in the proceedings;
(2) The interpreter has served in an investigative capacity for any party involved in the case;
(3) The interpreter has previously been retained by a law enforcement agency to assist in the preparation of the criminal case at issue;
(4) The interpreter or the interpreter's spouse or child has a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding, or any other interest that would be affected by the outcome of the case;
(5) The interpreter has been involved in the choice of counsel or law firm for that case;
(6) The interpreter is an attorney in the case;
(7) The interpreter has previously been retained for private employment by one of the parties to interpret in the case;
(8) For any other reason, the interpreter’s independence of judgment would be compromised in the course of providing services.

The existence of any of the above-mentioned circumstances does not alone disqualify an interpreter from providing services as long as the interpreter is able to render services objectively. An interpreter may serve if the judge and all parties consent. If an actual or apparent conflict of interest exists, the interpreter may, without explanation to any of the parties or the judge, decline to provide services.

Should an interpreter become aware that a non-English speaking participant views the interpreter as having a bias, or being biased, the interpreter should disclose that knowledge to the judge.