English to Bengali Legal Interpreter Services
English to Bengali, English to Bangla, and English to Bangladeshi legal interpreting services are often need in civil litigation. We have reported on cases in which the failure to provide interpreter services at court hearings resulted in unfairness to the party needing services. We have discussed the importance of translation services for service of process. We even addressed arguable claims of bias as a result of the need for an interpreter in court. Today’s blog discusses one recent case (HSBC Bank USA, National Association v. Parvez, 209 A.D.3d 723, 176 N.Y.S.3d 121 (2022)), in which all three of these issues created a perfect storm of injustice for a Bengalese mortgagor and his wife defending themselves against a multinational bank trying to foreclose on their property.
A Civil Foreclosure Action in New York
In January 2007, Masood Parvez (hereinafter Masood) executed a $522,250 note with HSBC Bank USA, National Association (hereinafter HSBC Bank). Masood secured the note with his mortgage on real property located in Woodside, New York. After almost three years, HSBC Bank filed a claim to foreclose the mortgage against Masood and his wife, Rowshan Parvez (hereinafter Rowshan). The bank filed affidavits stating that Rowshan accepted service of the summons and complaint at an address in Woodside that was different from the property they owned. Masood and Rowshan did not answer the complaint. By default, in January 2015, the Supreme Court entered a judgment of foreclosure and sale of the Woodside property. Masood and Rowshan moved to vacate and dismiss the judgment of foreclosure for lack of personal jurisdiction based on improper service of process.
On May 18, 2018, the court scheduled a hearing to determine the validity of service of process. At the hearing, the defendants’ attorney requested a Bengali court interpreter for Rowshan, who had a limited understanding of the English language. The court denied the request for a Bengali interpreter and affirmed the foreclosure. Masood and Rowshan appealed.
When Is a Legal Interpreter Necessary?
The trial court must exercise its discretion to determine whether an interpreter is necessary due to a language barrier. New York law provides that an interpreter must be provided in all civil cases in which a party is “unable to understand and communicate in English to the extent that he or she cannot meaningfully participate in the court proceedings.” 22 N.Y. Admin. Code § 217.1. In HSBC Bank v. Parvez, the trial court ruled that a Bengali interpreter was not necessary for Rowshan at the hearing regarding the validity of service of process. But the court on appeal held differently. Why?
The trial court stated that it found Rowshan’s testimony at the service of process hearing to be filled with “contradictions, misstatements and inconsistencies,” and that Rowshan lacked credibility with the court. It also noted that it had held seven other previous hearings at which, although Rowshan did not testify, she never requested a Bengali interpreter. However, on appeal, the court found that when Rowshan finally did testify at the hearing, she often was not responsive to the questions posed to her, did not know the meaning of simple words, and made confusing statements.
Masood also testified that Rowshan was not conversant in English and that, when she receives anything in the mail, she needs Masood to explain what it is. Based on this, the appellate court held that what the trial court viewed as Rowshan’s testimony lacking credibility was really a signal to the court, and to the attorneys, that Rowshan needed a Bengali interpreter. The court found that the trial court improvidently exercised its discretion by failing to see this and, instead, viewing Rowshan as a discredited witness. As a result, the court reversed the foreclosure judgment and remitted the case to the trial court for a new hearing (with a Bengali interpreter for Rowshan) so that Rowshan could meaningfully participate in the court proceeding to determine the validity of service of process.
What Should the Attorneys Have Done Differently?
The appellate court held that the trial court was wrong for not appointing a Bengali interpreter for Rowshan. It found that by denying her attorney’s request for a court interpreter, the court denied Rowshan an opportunity to meaningfully participate in her defense. But the court did not just hold that the trial court was wrong; it held that it was “improvident.” It held that the court lacked foresight by not assessing Rowshan’s need for an interpreter before the hearing. After all, it held seven other hearings at which it could have determined whether the parties needed an interpreter. The appellate court held that this was a significant mistake by the court. But did the attorneys do anything wrong?
Rowshan’s attorney knew that Rowshan would testify at the hearing on service of process and was correct in requesting a Bengali interpreter for Rowshan at the hearing. Certainly, the attorneys for HSBC Bank had no fiduciary duty to request an interpreter for Rowshan. The attorneys did nothing wrong. But should they have done anything differently?
The appellate court’s comment about the trial court’s failure to anticipate the need for an interpreter is a poignant one for all attorneys. Even though Rowshan did not testify at the seven hearings previous to the service of process hearing, the court noted that this should have been anticipated. It would have been prudent for the attorneys on both sides to anticipate that Rowshan likely would testify and might need a Bengali interpreter. This entire process could have been avoided, and judicial economy, as well as the interests of both parties, would have been served, if the attorneys had come to an agreement about the need for a Bengali interpreter or at least requested one prior to the hearing at which the Bengali interpreter was needed.
All Language Alliance, Inc. is available to provide any interpreting and translating services you need, in any language, at any stage of the litigation process. Call us at 303-470-9555 to determine the services you need. You can also email us from our website at www.languagealliance.com to request certified translation services for any language or dialect, and to reserve a deposition interpreter fluent in Bengali, Bangla, Persian, Bangladeshi, Punjabi, Telugu, Hindi, Urdu, Sinhala, Tamil, Polish, and other rare and common foreign languages.
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