Deaf citizens as jurors in Australian courts: Participating via professional interpreters


  • Sandra Hale University of New South Wales
  • Mehera San Roque University of New South Wales
  • David Spencer Australian Catholic University
  • Jemina Napier Heriot-Watt University



deaf jurors, auslan interpreters, civil rights, jury deliberations, interpreters’ code of ethics


Australian deaf citizens are currently not permitted to perform jury duty, primarily due to their inability to hear the evidence and deliberate without the help of interpreters. Although interpreters are routinely employed to interpret for defendants or witnesses in court, current legal frameworks do not permit interpreters to enter the deliberation room as a ‘thirteenth person’, for fear that they may influence the jurors in their decision-making. Other objections to allowing deaf citizens to act as jurors include uncertainty about their ability to participate fully in the discussions, the impact the deaf juror’s and interpreter’s presence may have on the dynamics of the deliberations and on turn taking, and the logistics and cost involved. Yet, deaf citizens see it as their right to be able to perform this very important civic duty, and recent decisions at the international level indicate that excluding deaf citizens from jury duty should be considered unlawful discrimination. This paper will present results from the analysis of the jury deliberations with one deaf juror and two Auslan interpreters, and from a focus group discussion with the eleven hearing jurors and an interview with the deaf juror about their experience. The jury deliberation is one section of a large-scale study on the participation of deaf jurors in a criminal trial with Auslan interpreters, in New South Wales.

Author Biographies

  • Sandra Hale, University of New South Wales
    Professor of Interpreting and Translation School of Humanities and Languages
  • Mehera San Roque, University of New South Wales
    Senior Lecturer, Director of JD Program School of Law
  • David Spencer, Australian Catholic University
    Professor of Law Provost / Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
  • Jemina Napier, Heriot-Watt University
    Professor and Chair of Intercultural Communication Head of Languages and Intercultural Studies


Aranguri, C., Davidson, B. & Ramirez, R. (2006). Patterns of communication through interpreters: A detailed sociolinguistic analysis. Journal of General Internal Medicine 21(6), 623-629.

Bauman, H-D L. and Murray, J. 2009. Re-framing: From hearing loss to Deaf Gain. Deaf Studies Digital Journal, 1. (ASL version at:

Berk-Seligson, S. (1990). The Bilingual Courtroom: Court Interpreters in the Judicial Process. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Brennan, M., & Brown, R. (1997). Equality before the law: Deaf people's access to justice. Durham, UK: Deaf Studies Research Unit, University of Durham.

Charrow, V. R., & Charrow, R. P. (1979a). Characteristics of the language of jury instruction. In J. E. Alatis & G. R. Tucker (Eds.), Language in public life (pp. 163-185). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Charrow, V. R., & Charrow, R. P. (1979b). Making legal language understandable: A psycholinguistic study of jury instructions. Colombia Law Review, 79, 1306-1374.

Cirillo, L. (2012). Managing affective communication in triadic exchanges: Interpreters’ zero-renditions and non-renditions in doctor-patient talk. In C. J. Bidoli, (Ed.), Interpreting across genres: Multiple research perspectives (pp. 102-124). Trieste: EUT Edizioni Universtà di Trieste.

Devine, D., Buddenbaum, J., Houp, S., Stolle, D., & Studebaker, N. (2007). Deliberation quality: A preliminary examination in criminal juries. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 4(2), 273–303.

Dumas, B. K. (2000). US pattern jury instructions: Problems and proposals. Forensic Linguistics, 7(1), 49-71.

Findlay, M. (2001). Juror comprehension and complexity: strategies to enhance understanding. British Journal of Criminology 41(1), 56-76.

Findlay, M. (2008). Juror comprehension and the hard case—Making forensic evidence simpler. International Journal of Law, Crime & Justice, 36, 15-53.

Gavioli, L., & Baraldi, C. (2011). Interpreter-mediated interaction in healthcare and legal settings: Talk organization, context and the achievement of intercultural communication. Interpreting, 13(2), 205-233.

Gavioli, L., & Baraldi, C. (2012). (Eds.). Coordinating participation in dialogue interpreting. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Goodman-Delahunty, J., Hale, S. B., Dhami, M. K., & Martschuk, N. (2015). Effects of Situational and Relational Variables on Interpreting in High Stakes Police Interviews. Unpublished research report to United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Center for Law and Human Behavior, University of Texas, El Paso. Manly: Charles Sturt University.

Hale, S. (2004/2010). The discourse of court Interpreting: Discourse practices of the law, the witness and the interpreter. Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Hale, S. (2008). Controversies over the role of the court interpreter. In C. Valero-Garcés & A. Martin (Eds.), Crossing Borders in Community Interpreting: Definitions and dilemmas (pp. 99-122). Amsterdam: John Benajmins.

Hale, S. (2014). Interpreting culture: Dealing with cross-cultural issues in court interpreting. Perspectives, 22(3), 321-331.

Hale, S., Martschuk, N., Ozolins, U., & Stern, L. (2017). The effect of interpreting modes on witness credibility assessments. Interpreting, 19(1).

Hale, S. & Napier, J. (2013). Research Methods in Interpreting: A practical resource. London: Bloomsbury.
Hickerson, A., & Gastil, J. (2008). Assessing the difference critique of deliberation: Gender, emotion and the jury experience. Communication Theory, 18(2), 281-303.

Hunter, J., Henning, T., Edmond, G., McMahon, R., Metzger, J., & San Roque, M. (2015). The Trial: Principles, Process and Evidence: The Federation Press.

Kerr, N., & MacCoun, R. (1985). The effects of jury size and polling method on the process and product of jury deliberation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48(2), 349-363.

Liu, X., & Hale, S. (forthcoming). Achieving accuracy in a bilingual courtroom: the effectiveness of specialised legal interpreter training. Journal of Speech, Language and the Law.

Luginbuhl, J. (1992). Comprehension of a judge's instructions in the penalty phase of a capital trial. Law & Human Behaviour, 16, 203-218.

MacCoun, R. (1990). Experimental research on jury decision—making. Jurimetrics, 30(2), 223-233.

Marder, N. S. (1987). Gender dynamics and jury deliberations. The Yale Law Journal, 96(3), 593-612.

Marks, A. (2012). Participation framework and footing shifts in an interpreted academic meeting. Journal of Interpretation, 22(1), Article 4. Available at:

Metzger, M. (1999). Sign Language Interpreting: Deconstructing the Myth of Neutrality. Washington, D.C, Gallaudet University Press.

Mikkelson, H. (2008). Evolving views of the court interpreter's role: Between Scylla and Charybdis. In C. Valero-Garcés & A. Martin (Eds.), Crossing Borders in Community Interpreting: Definitions and dilemmas (pp. 81-97). Amsterdam: john Benajmins.

Napier, J. (2013). Legal interpreting, Deaf people and jury service: A happy union? Newsli: Magazine of the Association of Sign Language Interpreters of the UK, December issue, 6-12.

Napier, J., & Banna, K. (in press). Walking a fine line: The legal system, sign language interpreters, roles and responsibilities. Journal of Applied Linguistics & Professional Practice.

Napier, J., & McEwin, A. (2015). Do Deaf people have the right to serve as jurors in Australia? Alternative Law Journal, 23-27.

Napier, J. & Spencer, D. (2007). A sign of the times: Deaf jurors and the potential for pioneering law reform. Reform: A journal of national and international law reform, 90, 35-37.

Napier, J. & Spencer, D. (2008). Guilty or not guilty? An investigation of deaf jurors’ access to court proceedings via sign language interpreting. In D. Russell & S. Hale (Eds.), Interpreting in legal settings (pp.71-122). Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

Napier, J., Spencer, D., & Sabolcec, J. (2007). Deaf jurors’ access to court proceedings via sign language interpreting: An investigation. Research Report No. 14. Sydney: Macquarie University & NSW Law Reform Commission. Available:

Napier, J., Spencer, D. & Sabolcec, J. (2009). A shared responsibility in the administration of justice: A pilot study of sign language interpretation access for deaf jurors. In S. Hale, H. Slatyer, & L. Stern (Eds.), Quality in Interpreting: A shared responsibility – Proceedings of the 5th International Critical Link Conference. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Napier, J., & Spencer, D. (in press). Jury instructions: Comparing hearing and deaf jurors’ comprehension via direct or interpreter-mediated communication. International Journal of Speech, Language & the Law.

Poole, M., & Dobosh, M. (2010). Exploring conflict management processes in jury deliberations through interaction analysis. Small Group Research, 41(4), 408-426.

Redman, R. (2003). Burning down the house: conversations in law and disability. Australian Journal of Communication, 30(3), 23.

Roy, C. (2000). Interpreting as a Discourse Process. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Russell, D. (2002). Interpreting in legal contexts: Consecutive and simultaneous interpretation. Burtonsville, MD: Sign Media.

Sanheim, L. (2003). Turn exchange in an interpreted medical encounter. In M. Metzger, S. Collins, V. Dively & R. Shaw (Eds.), From Topic Boundaries to Omission: Research on interpretation (pp. 27-54). Washington DC: Gallaudet University Press.

Smith, A. E. & Haney, C. (2011). Getting to the point: Attempting to improve juror comprehension of capital penalty phase instructions. Law & Human Behavior, 35(5), 339-350.

Sommers, S. (2006). On racial diversity and group decision making: Identifying multiple effects of racial composition on jury deliberations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(4), 597-612.

Takimoto, M. (2012). Interpreters' involvement in multi-party interactions: The nature of participation as listener and speaker. Multilingua, 31(1), 35–53.

Takimoto, M. & Koshiba, K. (2009). Interpreter’s non-rendition behavior and its effect on interaction: A case study of a multi-party interpreting situation. International Journal of Translation & Interpreting Research, 1(1), 15-26.

Tanford, S. & Penrod, S. (1986). Jury deliberations: Discussion content and influence processes in jury decision making. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 16(4), 322-347.

Thompson, S., & Hoggett, P. (2001). The emotional dynamics of deliberative democracy. Policy and Politics, 29(3), 351-364.

Van Herreweghe, M. (2002). Turn-taking mechanisms and active participation in meetings with Deaf and hearing participants in Flanders. In C. Lucas (Ed.), Turntaking, fingerspelling, and contact in signed languages (pp. 73-106). Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.

Varnham O'Regan, S. (2014, November 24). Deaf Victorian man denied from serving on jury calls for 'discriminatory' law to be changed. Retrieved from

Wadensjö, C. (1998). Interpreting as Interaction. London and New York, Addison Wesley Longman.

Winship, G. (2000). Jury deliberation: An observation study. Group Analysis, 33(4), 547-557.

Witter-Merithew, A. & Nicodemus, B. (2010). Toward the intentional development of interpreter specialization: An examination of two case studies. Journal of Interpretation, 55-76.






How to Cite

Hale, S., San Roque, M., Spencer, D., & Napier, J. (2017). Deaf citizens as jurors in Australian courts: Participating via professional interpreters. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 24(2), 151-176.