Working with Interpreters and Clients: Translating Between Culture and the Courtroom

5.25 Law and Legal and .75 Ethics CLE Credits | WSBA Activity ID #1105814

As use of interpreters has become a more essential part of almost all areas of legal practice, major drawbacks in how well we use interpreters have emerged. The missing component in working with interpreters: the context of cultural translation for clients unfamiliar with the American legal system. This program will develop your skills for interacting with and employing interpreters, building your toolbox for ensuring the most positive possible outcome for your client.


Recorded:  04/12/2019
Credits:  5.25 Law and Legal and .75 Ethics CLE | WSBA Activity ID #1105814
Length: 6 hours, 12 minutes

Featured Speakers:
Judge Mark Chow, Judge Carolyn Kondo (ret.), Yelena Stock

The skill to fully utilize and work with interpreters is critical to helping your non-English speaking clients, especially in the courtroom. Chaired by Yelena Stock, '08, from the Seattle City Attorney's Office, her faculty for this program include judicial officers Mark Chow, Carolyn "Kimi" Kondo, and Linda Coburn, plus attorneys and interpreters who will speak from both a personal cultural perspective and a professional perspective as members of the legal community. The participation of interpreters has become an essential part of almost all areas of legal practice, in order to provide context and cultural translation for clients unfamiliar with the American legal system. Join us to build your toolbox for ensuring the most positive possible outcome for your client.


Agenda and speakers are subject to change

8:00 - 8:30 a.m.

Registration and Coffee

8:45 - 9:30 a.m.

Session 1 - A View from the Bench

  • The ethics and importance of cultural competency 
  • What responsibility do attorneys have to be culturally competent? 
  • What resources are available to become culturally competent?

Judge Mark Chow, King County District Court

9:30 - 10:30 a.m.

Session 2 - Providing Context for Cultural Translation

  • How cultural attitudes and colloquial statements and cultural symbols don't necessarily translate easily into "Standard American", and vice versa. 
  • Fundamental differences between cultures in relation to the legal system 
  • On a system level - how is the American system functionally different from other countries; how the lack of attorneys of color in the courtroom impacts the sense of a client's ability to get justice
  • On a personal level - are the bad guys better than going to the police? Are the police and the system in American just going to separate me from my family? Fear of immigration issues.
  • Learning to ask: How much exposure to the American culture does the victim or the defendant have? What is the client's level of cultural competency?

Yelena Stock, Seattle City Attorney's Office

10:30 - 10:45 a.m.


10:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Session 3 - Cultural Roundtable

  • In your perspective, how does your culture most often conflict with "Standard American" in terms of attitude, colloquial speech, etc.? 
  • What stories or examples can you provide from your personal experience, and how were you able to solve or address the issues that came up?

Judge Carolyn "Kimi" Kondo (ret.), Seattle Municipal Court


Phil Su, Diversity Law Group, PLLC
Sumeer Singla, Impact Law Group
Hong Tran, King County Department of Public Defense

11:30 a.m. - 12 noon

Session 4 - How to listen differently - listening intelligently and with empathy for what you don't know and what the client doesn't know.


Professor Jill Dutton, Director, Externship Program, Seattle University School of Law

12 noon - 1 p.m.

Lunch (on your own)

1 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.

Session 5 - Practical experiences by the client in the court room:

  • Advocates working with non-English-speaking or minimal-English clients.

Alma Rodriguez, DV Advocate, City of Seattle
Alyssa Shaw, DV Advocate, City of Seattle

1:45 - 2:45 p.m.

Session 6 - Practical experience by attorneys working with interpreters in a variety of legal practice areas:

  • Ensuring that all the attorneys involved in a case are aware of the context from which the client is operating - civility/sharing information.

Prosecution - Peter Palubicki, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Adams County
Immigration - Lola Zakharova, Attorney, MacDonald Hoague & Bayless
Public Defense - Ami Hong Nguyen, King County Department of Public Defense

2:45 - 3:00 p.m.


3:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Session 7 - Let's hear from the Interpreters

  • Difference between court-credentialed and not
  • Why interpreters in some languages could become court-credentialed or court-registered and why non-credentialed interpreters have to be sworn-in; when does this need to happen?
  • Difference between modes of interpreting (simultaneous v. consecutive)
  • What helps the interpreter do their job? What does the interpreter need from the attorneys and the judge and the court to do their job at the best level?
  • How and when to ask follow up questions, through the interpreter, to make sure that the attorney and the court understand answers given by the client.

Judge Carolyn "Kimi" Kondo (ret.), Seattle Municipal Court


Emma Garkavi, Interpreter Services Manager, Seattle Municipal Court
Luisa Gracia, Seattle Municipal Court



Yelena Stock, Seattle City Attorney's Office

Yelena Stock joined the City of Seattle in 2014 as an Assistant City Prosecutor. She was in the Domestic Violence Unit for over three years and currently is in the Review Filing Unit. Prior to the City of Seattle, she was an associate attorney at Zachor and Thomas, Inc., P.S. for six years. During her time there, she was a lead prosecutor for the cities of Lynnwood, Mill Creek, and Mountlake Terrace. She graduated from Seattle University School of Law 08' and Arizona State University 04'. Before stepping into law, she served five years active duty in the Navy as a Gunners mate and two years reserve as a Torpedoman's mate.


Judge Mark Chow, King County District Court

Originally elected to the King County District Court in 1990, Judge Mark Chow has served six terms on the bench as the first Asian-American in the State of Washington to win election to the seat. Born in Seattle, Judge Chow is a graduate of Whitworth University in eastern Washington, a recipient of a law degree from Seattle University School of Law, and a respected member of the Washington State Bar.

Among his diverse accomplishments, Judge Chow presided over one of the nation's first courts to offer an alternative to sitting in jail for those with mental health issues. King County's Mental Health Court was a pioneer in reducing the criminalization of the mentally ill as it focused on keeping communities safe. With Judge Chow's help, the court instituted the therapeutic belief that crime can be prevented by other means than just jailing the mentally ill.

Prior to his election to the bench, Judge Chow acquired valuable trial experience as Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for King County under prosecutor, Norm Maleng. As legal counsel to the Office of Mayor for the City of Seattle, Judge Chow was liaison to city departments under the direction of Mayor Charles Royer. In private practice, Judge Chow was a partner in the law firm of Li, Klien, Chow & Bell, specializing in immigration and criminal defense.

Judge Chow was instrumental in developing education curricula on gender and diversity issues for the District and Municipal Court Judges' Association. He regularly speaks at educational institutions and judicial conferences facilitating subjects involving mental health, and domestic violence issues. Judge Chow is the recipient of the President's Award from the Asian Bar Association, and the Washington State Psychiatric Association's Randy Revelle Lifetime Achievement Award.

Gillian Dutton, Seattle University School of Law

Professor Dutton is the Director of the Externship Program and Associate Professor of Lawyering Skills at Seattle University School of Law. She is a Korematsu Center Faculty Fellow and Faculty Advisor to the International Refugee Assistance Project. She teaches international, civil, criminal, and judicial externship seminars and works on language access, civil rights and cross-cultural communication. Prof. Dutton has an M.A. in Chinese history and is a 1988 graduate of Boalt Hall. A national expert on language access on the law, she served as a consultant on the ABA Standards for Language Access in Courts. Prof. Dutton is a recipient of the 1999 Charles A. Goldmark Award for Distinguished Service and the 2005 Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Golden Door Award. Having lived abroad a number of years, she speaks Spanish, French, German and Mandarin.

Emma Garkavi, Interpreter Services, Seattle Municipal Court

Emma Garkavi is Interpreter Services Manager for Seattle Municipal Court. She is Washington and California states certified court interpreter in Russian and an American Translators Association (ATA) certified translator. Ms. Garkavi has been trained as a professional interpreter/translator in Russia and has the equivalent of a M.S. in Electrical Engineering. She is a former President of the Washington State Court Interpreters and Translators Society and a former member of the Washington State Interpreter Commission. She participated in the development of the national standard on interpreting, ASTM F2089-15 Standard Practice for Language Interpreting, American Society for Testing and Materials. She gave presentations at the WSBA sponsored Attorney Training for Service as Pro Tem and at the Institute for New Court Employees.

Luisa Gracia, Seattle Municipal Court

María Luisa Gracia Camón is a Spanish Court interpreter and Program Lead for Seattle Municipal Court. She holds a Degree in Translation and Interpretation (English and French) from Spain. Additional law studies helped her specialize in legal translation and interpretation. Luisa is also an Official Translator and Interpreter for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain and a DSHS certified interpreter and translator.

Luisa has been a language instructor for more than a decade, and now teaches Advanced Translation Skills at Bellevue College. She has recently developed a unique program, the first in Washington state, to train interpreters of lesser diffusion languages. She is an active Board member of the Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society and Chair of the Legal Division. In addition, she serves as one of the interpreter's representatives in the Washington Supreme Court Interpreters Commission.

Ami Hong Nguyen, King County Department of Public Defense

Ami has served as a public defender for the King County Department of Public Defense since October 2016. Previously she worked with defendants for the Inner City Law Center in Los Angeles and the Riverside County Public Defenders. She graduated from UCLA School of Law with a J.D in 2011, and holds a B.A. in Sociology from Stanford University.

Peter Palubicki, Adams County Prosecutor's Office

Peter Palubicki is the Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney at the Adams County Prosecutor's Office. He is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Law. In 2009, Peter began his prosecutorial career at Zachor & Thomas, Inc. P.S., where he worked as a municipal prosecutor. Later, Peter served as a deputy prosecutor for the San Juan County Prosecutor's Office. He then served as the Infraction Supervisor with the City of Seattle Prosecutor's Office. Peter later crossed the mountains in order to become a deputy prosecutor for the Stevens County Prosecutor's Office. At his current position with the Adams County Prosecutor's Office, Peter prosecutes the county's most serious felonies.

Alma Rodriguez, Seattle City Attorney's Office

Alma Rodriguez has been providing advocacy to victims of domestic violence for over 10 years. In 2013 she joined the Seattle City Attorney's Office as their Spanish-Bilingual Advocate. Ms. Rodriguez is a first-generation US citizen. She proudly served in the US Navy as a Hospital Corpsman, on both active duty and active reserves. Ms. Rodriguez's experience with the cultures of Mexico and the United States have richly influenced her advocacy and enables her to assist victims of domestic violence as they navigate the criminal justice system.

Sumeer Singla, Impact Law Firm

Sumeer Singla has over 12 years of public sector and in-house experience, and is a seasoned trial lawyer, general counsel, and policy analyst, with over thirty jury trials. As a felony and misdemeanor prosecutor for the Seattle City Attorney's Office, he resolved thousands of criminal cases. He has served as a municipal and government counsel, working with state legislators and city agencies. At Impact Law Firm, he assists his clients in navigating through complex municipal, state, and federal regulations, such as liquor and marijuana license regulations, building and planning regulations, and general land use regulations. He can develop legislation and a political/legislative strategy to help his clients successfully achieve their policy goals.

Sumeer serves as Judge Pro Tem in numerous jurisdictions in King and Snohomish Counties. He adjudicates both civil and criminal cases. He brings his experience and perspective from the bench to help his clients understand a judge or jury's perception of their case. He also serves on the Washington State Executive Ethics Board, a gubernatorial appointment, regulating ethical conduct of Washington State employees. He graduated from the UW School of Law in 2002, and from WSU with a B.A. in Political Science in 1998. He speaks Hindi, Punjabi, and Spanish.

Phil Su, Diversity Law Group, PLLC

Chuan-Yi Phillip Su was born in Taichung, Taiwan. He moved to the US with his family in 1986, but later emigrated to Vancouver, British Columbia (1990). Phil graduated from the University of British Columbia with a bachelor's of arts in psychology and sociology. He then attended Florida Coastal School of Law where he received his Juris Doctorate in 2003. After passing both the Florida and Washington State bar, Phil received his LLM in tax law from the University of Washington in 2004. Phil has been a solo practitioner since 2004. He's currently admitted to practice law in both Florida and Washington. Phil has been defending people accused of crimes all over Washington State, and federal economic crimes in other states pro hac vice. He has defended crimes ranging from simple license suspensions to attempted murder. Phil received his legal training from his mentor who was once a supervisor at a public defense firm and this mentor is currently a municipal court judge. Aside from English, Phil is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese. Phil has represented many Mandarin speaking clients and had on several occasions served as a "friend of the court translator" for in-custody defendants who did not have interpreters present for their arraignment/first appearance.

Hong Tran, King County Department of Public Defense

Ms. Tran has been a civil legal aid attorney for over 20 years specializing in housing, family law, public benefits, unemployment and consumer law issues, and is a public defender with the King County Department of Public Defense. She has served as a volunteer attorney in asylum cases, and has experience working with victims of domestic violence. A native of Vietnam, she holds a J.D. from University of Utah School of Law (1992); and a B.A. from Agnes Scott College (1988).

Lola Zakharova, MacDonald Hoague & Bayless

Lola assists companies in securing temporary work visas and employment-based permanent resident status for international talent. She also represents U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents wishing to sponsor family members for immigration status and assists clients in obtaining temporary U.S. visas at U.S. consulates abroad.

Lola has worked in the immigration law field for over 18 years. Prior to joining MacDonald Hoague & Bayless in 2013, Lola served as an immigration paralegal in the in-house legal department of a multinational telecommunications corporation, supporting the company's foreign national employees, HR, Recruiting, and corporate leadership on a wide variety of immigration issues. Before that, Lola spent 10 years working in the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, focusing on non-immigrant and immigrant visas and leading the Embassy's fraud detection and prevention program. While in law school, Lola served as a judicial extern for the Honorable Michael S. Spearman at Division One of the Washington Court of Appeals. Lola speaks Russian and Uzbek languages.

Lola is an active advocate on immigration and international issues, having served on King County Immigration Task Force and currently serving on the City of Seattle International Affairs Advisory Board. She holds a B.A. from Uzbek State University of World Languages, summa cum laude, 1999; and a J.D. from Seattle University School of Law, magna cum laude, 2012.


General Registration - $180

Seattle University School of Law Alumni - $150

Legal Staff, Interpreters, and Non-Attorneys - $125

Cancellations and Refunds:

Cancellation Policy: All sales of On Demand AV CLEs are final. No cancellations or refunds will be made