The ''Language Conduit'' Test

In Correa v. Superior Court (2002) 27 Cal.4th 444, the court reasoned: "A generally unbiased and adequately skilled translator simply serves as a 'language conduit,' so that the translated statement is considered to be the statement of the original declarant, and not that of the translator." The court explained the "language conduit" test has been applied where the declarant is the defendant. (Id. at p. 456.) The court noted this test has been applied in several federal cases; however, it believed "that the measured approach adopted by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Nazemian (9th Cir. 1991) 948 F.2d 522, 525-527 should be adopted to ensure that only translated statements fairly attributable to a declarant will be admitted." (Correa, supra, 27 Cal.4th at p. 457.) United States v. Nazemian (9th Cir. 1991) 948 F.2d 522 delineated four factors to be taken into account "on a case-by-case basis" when deciding the issue: (1) "which party supplied the interpreter;" (2) did "the interpreter have any motive to mislead or distort" the information; (3) "the interpreter's qualifications and language skill;" and (4) "whether actions taken subsequent to the conversation were consistent with the statements as translated." (Nazemian, supra, 948 F.2d at p. 527.) The Supreme Court warned there may be cases in which the interpreter should be called to testify. It observed that in cases applying the "language-conduit" test, "the persons who provided the translation did not always testify, but we agree with a federal court holding that 'where the particular facts of a case cast significant doubt upon the accuracy of a translated statement, the translator or a witness who heard and understood the untranslated statement must be available for testimony and cross-examination at the . . . hearing before the statement can be admitted.'" (Correa, supra, 27 Cal.4th at p. 459.) In Correa, the court decided two officers could testify at the defendant's preliminary hearing regarding extrajudical statements made by the victim and a witness through two interpreters. Applying the "language-conduit" test, the court determined "the evidence amply supports the conclusion that the translations were sufficiently unbiased and accurate to permit the statements fairly to be attributed to the declarants." (Correa, surpa, 27 Cal.4th at p. 466.) It reasoned, "the translators were not 'supplied' by the police, but (apparently being unknown both to the declarants and the police officers, as well as to the defendant) just happened to be on the scene. Their neutrality is evident from the record, and there is no contrary suggestion of a motive to mislead or distort. The investigating officers observed the process of translation and did not report any apparent hesitation or difficulty in communicating, or any bias. In addition, evidence produced during the investigation tended to corroborate the substance of the translated statements. Moreover, the translators appeared and testified at the preliminary hearing with respect to the course of the translations, their neutrality, and their language skills, and ample evidence supports the conclusion that they were skilled in English and Spanish and were capable of providing accurate translations." (Ibid.)