Get access

Stranger at the Gate: The Effect of the Plaintiff's use of an Interpreter on Juror Decision-Making


  • This work was supported by a generous research grant from the Lidj Endowment Fund. Other members of the research group included Stephen Fly, Kevin Roy Grubbs, LaKisha Offord, George Shake, and Southern Methodist University law students. Peiqi Zhai and Katherine Sisk were members of the research team from the SMU Department of Statistics.

Lynne, Stokes, Ph.D., Department of Statistical Science, Southern Methodist University, 3225 Daniel Avenue, P.O. Box 750332, Dallas, TX 75275-0332, U.S.A.



There exists a substantial literature examining the effect on juror decision-making of extraneous demographic characteristics of plaintiffs and defendants. In most of these studies, members of groups that are perceived as being minorities or as belonging to one of a variety of outgroups (lower socioeconomic status, immigrants) are treated more harshly by jurors, or are perceived as being less deserving or credible. In this study, the authors examine treatment by jurors of a relatively less well investigated outgroup: that of the non-English speaker. An experiment was conducted in which actual jurors in a large urban county were randomly assigned to view a videotape of a civil case. Three versions of the videotapes were identical except that, on one, the plaintiff required an interpreter to communicate and it is approximately three minutes longer than the other two. On the other two versions, the plaintiff spoke English, but differed in ethnicity (Hispanic or Anglo). The findings showed that the non-English-speaking plaintiff did not fare worse than the English speakers, and, in fact, was awarded higher mean damages than either of the English speakers. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.