Written by Craig D. Robins, Esq.
What happens if you are a debtor in a bankruptcy case and you can barely speak English?
Free English translation services now available in our Long Island Bankruptcy Court
The U.S. Trustee Program recently began offering free translation services. The service is limited to assisting non-English speaking debtors at the meeting of creditors, which is also known as the section 341 hearing.
The first time I saw this in action I was amazed at how smoothly the process worked. I was at a meeting of creditors a few months ago with some Spanish-speaking clients. The trustee was Andrew Thaler who had never utilized the service before. Using a telephone in the meeting room, the trustee called a central translation service switchboard, provided some info, and within minutes was connected to a Spanish-speaking interpreter.
The interpreter methodically translated through the speaker phone, and there were no problems at all.
In the past, a debtor with limited English proficiency would have to bring their own interpreter with them, who was often a family member. Although this had worked smoothly with most trustees, some trustees were not too willing to let family members serve as interpreters because of potential bias.
The new system, which is in accordance with an Executive Order from the President requiring federal agencies to have a Language Assistance Plan, provides interpretation services in as many as 196 languages. Currently the service is only available in some areas and we are fortunate enough to have it in the Central Islip and Brooklyn Bankruptcy Courts.
To minimize delays at the meeting of creditors, debtors wishing to take advantage of this free service are encouraged to have their bankruptcy attorney contact the trustee in advance of the meeting.