Nebraska Attorney General Opinions 1998. AGO 98046. DATE: November 2, 1998SUBJECT: Whether sign language interpreters may be subpoenaed and required to interpret before a court, and whether communication conveyed between a deaf person and a sign language interpreter can be considered privileged.REQUESTED BY: Tanya D. Wendel, Executive Director, Nebraska Commission for the Hearing ImpairedWRITTEN BY: Don Stenberg, Attorney General Melanie J. Whittamore-Mantzios, Assistant Attorney General You have requested our opinion regarding whether sign language interpreters may be subpoenaed and required to interpret before a court. You have also requested our opinion regarding whether communication conveyed between a deaf person and a sign language interpreter can be considered privileged. In civil and criminal matters before a court, subpoenas may be issued upon persons to appear in court and testify. In a civil proceeding, Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-1224 (Reissue 1995) provides , in pertinent part: The subpoena shall be directed to the person therein named, requiring him to attend at a particular time and place, to testify as a witness; and it may contain a clause directing the witness to bring with him any book, writing, or other thing under his control, which he is bound by law to produce as evidence. (Emphasis Added) Statutory language should generally be given its plain and ordinary meaning and where the words of the statute are plain, direct, and unambiguous, no interpretation is necessary to ascertain their meaning. Sorenson v. Meyer, 220 Neb. 457, 370 N.W.2d 173 (1985). "In the construction of a statute, no sentence, clause, or word should be rejected as meaningless or superfluous; rather, the plain and ordinary meaning of the language employed should be taken into account in order to determine the legislative will." Weiss v. Union Ins. Co., 202 Neb. 469, 473, 276 N.W.2d 88, 92 (1979). The language in Neb.Rev. Stat. § 25-1224 (1995) is clear and unambiguous--a subpoena shall be served to a person to testify as a witness. The ordinary definition of witness is one who can attest to a fact, statement, or can offer a firsthand account of something. The language of section 25-1224 suggests that the intent of the Legislature was to allow subpoenas to be issued to witnesses only, not persons in general. In criminal matters, writs of subpoenas...
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