The Supreme Court of South Carolina

The Supreme Court of South Carolina

RE:  Telephonic Foreign Language Interpreter Services in Magistrate and Municipal Courts


I FIND THAT the need and cost for foreign language interpreters in magistrate and municipal court is increasing.  By previous Order dated January 9, 2002, a pilot project was initiated in the magistrates courts of Richland County authorizing the use of telephonic foreign language interpreter services in specified court proceedings.  After using the service for six (6) months, the Chief Magistrate of Richland County submitted a report concerning the outcome of the pilot project.  The report indicated that the project was a success and in no way infringed on the rights of the defendant, nor diminished the integrity of the proceedings. Based on the outcome of the report, I find that the use of telephonic foreign language interpreter services should be authorized for statewide use in the summary courts.  

THEREFORE, pursuant to the provisions of Article V, Section 4, South Carolina Constitution,

IT IS ORDERED that the use of telephonic foreign language interpreter services may be used in the magistrate and municipal courts of this State for non-capitol initial appearances, bond hearings, preliminary hearings, and guilty pleas, upon the following conditions: 

1. The hearing must be recorded.  A defendant who is in need of a foreign language interpreter must be informed that the court can provide that an interpreter be physically present in court, as opposed to using a telephonic foreign language interpreter.  If the defendant requests that an interpreter be physically present in court, the proceeding must be continued until such time as the defendant’s request can be accommodated.  A defendant’s consent or denial must be recorded and maintained as part of the record of the case. 

2. The court must provide a speakerphone so the interpreter’s voice will be recorded and included in the record of the proceeding.  At the beginning of the proceeding, the interpreter must be sworn over the telephone, and state on the record that he/she has been certified in the required language and is qualified to interpret court proceedings.  Such oath shall be substantially in the following format:  “Do you swear or affirm that you shall translate from English to (indicate foreign language) and from (indicate foreign language) to English, and such translation shall be done in accordance with the standard and accepted practices of the courts of the State of South Carolina?” 

3. The judge shall inform the interpreter that all interpretations shall be done in the exact translation and no legal advice shall be offered to the defendant by the interpreter in any way.  Such translation shall include all words, phrases, and expletives, regardless of their content, and be as closely translated in like emotions as may be detected by the translator. 

4. The County or municipality shall bear all costs associated with telephonic foreign language interpreter services. 

5. No prior approval is necessary for a County or municipality to implement this program.  However, upon implementation, notification of such to the Office of Court Administration is required. 

This Order shall remain in effect unless amended or revoked by Order of the Chief Justice.

  s/Jean Hoefer Toal
Jean Hoefer Toal, Chief Justice

January 14, 2003
Columbia, South Carolina