NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING JURORS AND PROSPECTIVE JURORS
Introduction. Article VII, Section 3, of the New Mexico Constitution provides that “[t]he right of any citizen of the state to . . . sit upon juries, shall never be restricted, abridged or impaired on account of . . . inability to speak, read or write the English or Spanish languages.” To comply with this constitutional mandate, all courts should strive to incorporate all New Mexico citizens into our jury system regardless of the language spoken by a prospective NES juror.
Court Interpreters. Under Supreme Court Rule, only certified court interpreters are allowed to interpret for NES jurors or prospective jurors. Upon request by an NES citizen called for jury duty, all courts should submit a request for a court interpreter to AOC to assist the NES juror or prospective juror. In the absence of a specific request for a court interpreter, all courts should independently determine whether a juror or prospective juror is in need of a court interpreter. To make this determination, a court may consider conducting a limited interview of the juror or prospective juror to assess whether the juror or prospective juror is capable of understanding the proceedings in English.
Jury Summons. The New Mexico jury summons form should include a statement in Spanish notifying citizens called for jury duty that assistance is available for those who cannot understand English. The Spanish notice should also provide a telephone number that prospective NES jurors may call for further assistance.
Juror Questionnaire. The AOC is responsible for preparing a Spanish version of the juror questionnaire used by local courts. The AOC is also responsible for distributing copies of the Spanish version of the juror questionnaire to all local courts. All local courts should provide a Spanish version of the juror questionnaire upon request from any prospective juror.
Jury Selection. All courts should make arrangements to have a court interpreter available for prospective NES jurors who qualify for jury duty and have requested an interpreter to assist them during the jury selection process. Upon arriving for jury selection, the court should introduce the court interpreter appointed to assist prospective NES jurors and advise prospective NES jurors that they should alert the interpreter if they have any questions during the process. The transcript of proceedings need not include the foreign language statements of the court interpreter or prospective NES juror, provided that the transcript clearly indicates when a court interpreter was used to interpret for a prospective NES juror.
Prospective NES jurors are subject to peremptory challenges and challenges for cause the same as any other prospective juror. However, a prospective NES juror may not be challenged or excused simply because that juror is unable to read, write, or speak the English language. Moreover, the trial court should not excuse a prospective NES juror who asks to be excused simply because he or she cannot read, write, or speak the English language.
In the event that a court interpreter will not be available to provide interpretation services for a prospective NES juror, the prospective juror can be postponed to next term or excused for that day’s selection and be recalled for jury selection for the next scheduled trial.
Trial Proceedings. All courts should make arrangements to have a court interpreter available for all NES jurors during all trial proceedings. The transcript of proceedings need not include the foreign language statements of the court interpreter or the NES juror, provided that the transcript clearly indicates when a court interpreter was used to interpret for an NES juror.
In the case of spoken languages, a court interpreter may provide interpretation services for more than one prospective NES juror at a time and a court interpreter ordinarily can be used to interpret for both a litigant and a prospective NES juror.
Pre-deliberation Oath to the Interpreter: NES (Non English Speaking ) Juror Pre-deliberation Oath "Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will not interfere with the jury’s deliberations in any way by expressing any ideas, opinions or observations that you may have during deliberations and that you will strictly limit your role during deliberations to interpreting?" UJI 14-6021
Jury Deliberations. All courts should make arrangements to have a court interpreter available for all NES jurors during all jury deliberations. One court interpreter may provide interpretation services for more than one NES juror at a time during deliberations. To the extent that documentary exhibits are submitted to the jury for consideration during deliberations, the court interpreter assigned to assist NES jurors may provide an oral translation of the written material. With respect to jury instructions submitted to the jury, the court interpreter assigned to the NES jurors during deliberations may provide an oral translation of the jury instructions.
Resources for NES Jurors [webpage]
NM Courts' Jury [webpage]