Stetson hosts sign language courtroom interpreting workshop in March

Stetson hosted the second annual sign language interpreting and mock trial experience in Gulfport. Photo courtesy Professor Jason Palmer.

By Taylor Allyn

The Stetson Law Center for Excellence in Elder Law, Absolute Quality Interpreting, and Hallenross and Associates, LLC, along with Professor Jason Palmer and Professor Julia Metts, hosted their second annual sign language interpreting “live mock trial experience” on Stetson’s Gulfport campus in March. The two-day workshop is unlike any other in the country as it provides specialized hands-on sign language interpreter training in a live mock trial courtroom setting. The workshop tackles some of the challenges unique to courtroom sign language interpreting, like navigating the courtroom environment and conveying abstract concepts and technical legal terms. 

The first day of the workshop provided lectures and training on standard practices for courtroom interpreting. On the second day, all 60 attendees got the chance to test out their skills in a courtroom environment with the help of Stetson Law’s trial team. Interpreters worked through every step of a trial, including interpreting open and closing statements, direct and cross-examinations, interpreting for a witness who is deaf, and interpreting jury deliberation which involved a juror who is deaf. 

“We are the only place that is providing training for sign language interpreters using trials with real lawyers and law students,” Professor Palmer said. “This is a unique opportunity for our students to get that experience before they go out and practice, [and] for sign language interpreters to have a real courtroom experience . . . [instead of] training in a meeting room or a convention center.”

Although the program does not offer continuing legal education (CLE) credits yet, Professor Palmer is optimistic for the future. Next year, he hopes to expand the workshop by another section or even another day to add more specialized training for judges and lawyers on how to engage with deaf community members and sign language interpreters in a courtroom setting.