• When does a case qualify for a court-appointed interpreter?

    Interpreters may be appointed only for defendants (or defense witnesses) in proceedings instituted by the United States. Interpreter services for all other proceedings must be provided and paid for by the parties to the case.

  • Who pays for the services of an interpreter in federal court?

    In all judicial proceedings instituted by the United States that require the appointment of an interpreter, the cost of the court-appointed interpreter will be paid by the United States from appropriations available to the judiciary, except that the Office of the United States Attorney is responsible for securing the services of such interpreters for government witnesses. For a detailed description of which proceedings qualify for appointed interpreters, please refer to sections (a) and (j) of the Court Interpreters Act. When defense counsel need the services of an interpreter away from the courthouse, they should make arrangements to contact, contract, and pay the interpreter. For more information, please see “For Attorneys” on the "Interpreter Services" page.

  • What about criminal background checks for interpreters?

    In keeping with the year 2000 directive from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, all interpreters contracted for work in court must undergo a background check by the U.S. Marshal. Interpreters must also provide their fingerprints for an FBI fingerprint check. Once the interpreter is cleared by the U.S. Marshal and the FBI, an ID tag with the interpreter’s picture, signed by the Clerk of Court, is given to the interpreter prior to his or her first assignment. The interpreter is advised to display the tag at all times while on assignment.

  • If there is no federal certification in languages other than Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Navajo, who determines the qualifications of interpreters of languages other than those three?

    It is up to the court to determine the qualifications of interpreters of languages for which no federal certification is available. New interpreters are screened by the manager of Interpreter Services and given an orientation session and relevant materials prior to being included on the court’s local roster. Interpreter performance is periodically reviewed by the manager. A resume, an interpreter’s written oath, and a signed Contract Court Interpreter Services Terms and Conditions document is kept on file in the department.

  • Which languages are federally certified?

    Federal certification is available in Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Navajo.

  • What is a certified interpreter?

    A certified interpreter is an individual who has passed an interpreter certification exam, usually mandated by legislation.

  • Will the court pay to have the indictment or other documents translated into a foreign language?

    In most instances, the translation of documents is an expense that the parties must bear. The use of the general authorization for court interpreting is not appropriate for paying for document translations. If a non-English-speaking defendant or other participants in a court proceeding need to be advised of the content of an English-language document, this should be done by means of a sight translation, where an interpreter orally renders the document into the foreign language. For sight translation, the contract interpreter rates set by the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts apply.

  • Is there federal certification for translators?

    No. Federally certified interpreters are not tested for translation ability. To find translators who are certified by the American Translators Association, you may search the membership listing at: www.atanet.org.

  • How does an attorney, in a civil case not instituted by the United States, go about finding an interpreter?

    Attorneys may refer to the paragraph entitled “Finding an Interpreter" on the "Interpreter Services" page.