It should go without saying that an interpreter must be faithful to the intent and meaning of the origination speech and should not abuse their position as a mediator and their power as the source/conduit of information between parties who can't understand each other but nonetheless have a mutual interest in doing so.
From Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana comes a depressing story of an interpreter working for the Public Defender's Office who abused her position by soliciting payments from the illegal immigrants in the court's docket. Details of the solicitation were not shared,but its format was: "Pay me, and I'll bribe the immigration officials to not prosecute & deport."
Unethical. Heinous. Ghastly. Disgusting. Any way you look at it, it shakes your faith. Fortunately the court seems to take the matter suitably seriously given its potential for eroding public trust in the process of justice and because the context was one of public prosecutorial authorities within the Judicial branch. 45-year old Trina Bourg faces:
- 20 years in prison and
- $250,000 per count.
The legality of abusing one's power as an interpreter may not always be quite so clear nor so draconian. But the ethical yardstick is crystal clear in its simplicity. This is a shining negative example, so vile as to be almost inconceivable to us here at The Meehan Group
Standards. They matter. And if you hadn't quite understood why professional groups such as The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters) take ethics so seriously, this is why.