Georgia Supreme Court Establishes Constitutional Right to Interpreter

I’m not just posting about Ling v. Georgia (PDF) because I’m her criminal appeals lawyer. Although it is pretty nice to have lost a motion for new trial and an appeal to the Georgia Court of Appeal and ultimely win in the Supreme Court on cert. while helping to secure a new substantive new substantive Constitutional right along the way. I think I’d be posting about this case even if I weren’t Mrs. Ling’s lawyer.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Georgia reversed the Georgia Court of Appeals and found that a criminal defendant has a Constitutional right to an interpreter. The Court also found that courts, when faced with an issue of whether an interpreter is needed, must make an explicit finding on the record on the issue.

The Court also rejected the notion that a trial attorney can unilaterally decide to forego an interpreter based upon a claim of trial strategy because a decision like that renders the client absent from her own trial.

The decision has gotten well-deserved coverage since yesterday. CNN posted an article on its Justice page. Kate Brumback posted a story on AP yesterday. CBS has a report of it as well.

It was a hard-fought victory. And I hope that the precedent assists other similarly-situated defendants in future cases.

If you’re interested in how we got here, my oral argument is available for viewing.


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