A certified interpreter is an individual who has passed a rigorous written and oral interpreter certification examination, usually mandated by legislation. Certification exists at the federal and state levels. In federal court, certification is administered by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC).
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. (please refer to the Court Interpreters Act).
In keeping with a 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, 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.
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 United States attorney is responsible for securing the services of such interpreters for government witnesses.
If there is no federal certification in languages other than Spanish, who determines the qualifications of interpreters of languages other than Spanish?
It is up to the court to determine the qualifications of interpreters of languages where there is no federal certification available. The Administrative Office has established the following guidelines to assist the courts in that regard.
The Guidelines for Qualifying Court Interpreters are as follows:
An interpreter who has successfully completed the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination (FCICE) for a language in which an examination is available.
Otherwise Qualified Interpreters:
When a certified interpreter is not reasonably available, the court may use an “otherwise qualified interpreter” (28 U.S.C. ?1827(b)(2)). Otherwise qualified interpreters consist of the following two categories: professionally qualified interpreters and language-skilled/ad hoc interpreters.
1. Professionally Qualified Interpreters:
b. Passed the interpreter test of the United Nations in a language pair that includes English and the target language.
c. Is a current member in good standing of: the Association Internationale des Interpretes de Conference (AIIC) (www.aiic.net); or The American Association of Language Specialists (TAALS) (www.taals.net). The language pair of the membership qualification must be English and the target language.
d. For sign language interpreters, someone who holds the Specialist Certificate: Legal (SC:L) of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) (http://www.rid.org).
2. Language Skilled/ad-hoc Interpreters:
An interpreter who does not qualify as a professionally qualified interpreter, but who can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the court the ability to interpret court proceedings from English to a designated language and from that language into English, will be classified as a language skilled/ad-hoc interpreter, and may be placed on the courts local roster and included on the Directors master list as a “language skilled/ad-hoc interpreter”.
When the Court Interpreters Act of 1978 (28 USC 1827) became law, the federal courts developed certification testing in three languages: Spanish, Haitian Creole and Navajo. However, federal certification for Haitian Creole and Navajo has not been offered since 1991, and at present, the only certification offered at the federal level is for Spanish-language interpreters.
Federal courts are required to secure the services of a federally certified Spanish interpreter. However, if no federally certified interpreter is reasonably available, the court may use the services of an “otherwise qualified interpreter.” (28 USC ?1827(b)(2).
Only those interpreters who have passed the federal court interpreter certification Examination (FCICE) administered by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts are certified to work in the federal courts.
To find out about the certification examination, please visit http://www.ncsconline.org/fcic/. For information regarding the state of Florida court interpreter certification program, please refer to http://www.flcourts.org/gen-public/interpret/index.shtml.
No. Interpreters must contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The Interpreters Office has copies of the forms and fingerprint cards available upon request; however, all matters pertaining to grand jury clearance are handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
I am an AUSA and I need an interpreter for my trial witnesses. What is the procedure in the SDFL for scheduling interpreters for court proceedings?
Please refer to the Court Interpreters Act.
No. You may contact our office for a list of interpreters but you are responsible for making all arrangements directly with the interpreter(s), including payment.
Please make arrangements with a privately retained interpreter as interpreters working for the Interpreters Office are usually assigned to cover other matters.
The Interpreters Office maintains a list of certified Spanish, Haitian Creole, ASL (American Sign Language) as well as interpreters in other languages who work in the SDFL. For assistance, please contact our office. (To contact us, click here). A national court interpreter database is available to federal court personnel through the J-Net.
If you would like to be included in the roster of active interpreters, you must first contact the Supervisory Interpreter to sign the Contract (Click here for contact information).
To be considered for assignments you must submit your availability by e-mail, fax or some other written form on the Thursday before the following week. You must indicate whether you are available for all day assignments, or for only morning or afternoon on any particular day.Interpreter schedules will be prepared based on the needs of the court and assignments made from the list of interpreters available for that period.If you are called by telephone or contacted by e-mail, you must provide confirmation of your availability for that particular assignment via e-mail, or by phone if unable to e-mail. You will then be sent a copy of the Interpreter Schedule for the day of the assignment.
You need to submit proof of certification by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, a copy of your c.v., and cover letter addressed to the Supervisory Interpreter, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, 400 N Miami Avenue, Room 8N09, Miami, FL 33128.
If you are not federally certified, visit www.ncsconline.org. to find out about the certification program.
I am interested in working as an interpreter in federal court in a language other than Spanish. How can I get on your roster of interpreters?
You need to submit proof of credentials, your resume and a cover letter addressed to the Supervisory Interpreter (Click here for contact information).
The hearing/trial I was scheduled to cover was canceled. What is the cancellation policy in the SDFL?
Cancellations less than 24 hours prior to the assignment will be paid in accordance to the provisions in the contract.
No. Federal certification is not an offer or guarantee of employment. Please refer to terms and conditions of contract (please insert link)
Interpreters interested in obtaining professionally qualified status or acquiring State certification should consult the State of Florida Court Interpreter’s Certification Program which offers testing in a variety of languages. (www.flcourts.org/gen_public/interpret/index.shtml). Several professional organizations such as the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (www.najit.org) and the American Translators Association offer certification examinations for their members (www.ata.net).
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.
An attorney asks me to comment on the translation of (a word, phrase) in a transcript used as evidence in a trial. How should I handle that situation?
Interpreters are neutral parties and are bound by the Code of Ethics to maintain impartiality at all times; therefore they must not comment on the content or quality of someone else’s work product. The only exception to this rule occurs when there is a disagreement between parties and the presiding judicial officer wants the official interpreters to render a professional opinion. In that case, the presiding officer may request that the interpreter be qualified as an expert witness in order to give an opinion on a point of interpretation.
If an attorney asks me to provide headsets for family or friends of the defendant’s who are in the audience, what should I do?
The Court Interpreters Act (28 U.S.C. ? 1827(d)) provides for interpretation services only for defendants and defense witnesses in cases instituted by the United States, so that there is no obligation to allow family members and others to “listen in” on interpreted proceedings.
What is the protocol in the SDFL for requests from attorneys to sight translate documents for the record, from Spanish (or other language) into English?
Interpreters may be asked to sight translate brief documents in court. A copy of the document to be sight translated should be provided to the interpreters for review ahead of time in order to assure its accuracy for the record. If the interpreter does not receive the document in advance, time should be requested from the judicial officer in order to read, research or request assistance from the Interpreters Office. Lengthy documents should be translated in advance by the party seeking to present them. If there are any questions concerning the proper protocol, please request guidance from the Supervisory Interpreter.
I am asked by one of the attorneys in a hearing (or trial) to provide a simultaneous interpretation of the conversations in an undercover recording. What is the protocol in the SDFL regarding such requests?
Inform the presiding judge that the preparation of transcripts is an intense, time-consuming task requiring special equipment. Recordings must be re-played and transcripts reviewed many times to guarantee accuracy. In general, we do not provide instant in-court interpretation of verbal recordings; however, in the event the presiding judicial officer insists, you should request a recess for as long as necessary and listen to the recording until you are satisfied you can render an accurate interpretation. When in doubt request permission from the court to contact the supervisory interpreter for guidance.
Yes. The interpreter is a neutral party whose only role is to facilitate communication between the non-English speaker and English speaker.
Certified and Professionally Qualified Court Interpreters
(Effective February 1, 2010 and subject to change)
Full day: $388
Language-Skilled (Non-Certified Interpreters)
Current Mileage (subject to change) [to be added]
Per Diem rates vary according to location.
Yes. There are several professional translator and interpreter organizations. They include the the Association Internationale des Interpretes de Conference (AIIC) (www.aiic.net), the American Translators Association (www.atanet.org) and the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (www.najit.org).
Yes, you may be called at times to cover telephonic hearings.
The Telephone Interpreting Program (TIP) is a telephone interpreting system developed by the Administrative Office to allow an interpreter at a remote location to deliver interpreting services using the consecutive interpreting mode for the record and the simultaneous mode for the defendant, by means of two-line telephone system.
The U.S. Court Telephone Interpreting Program has provided interpreting for courts nationwide since 1991 in a variety of languages and settings. TIP interpreting is ordinarily done in the simultaneous mode, allowing dual-language hearings to proceed at the same pace as those conducted in English only. Since defendants and witnesses hear languages other than English through telephone handsets or headsets, interpreter interference in the courtroom is minimal. TIP is designed to provide services of certified Spanish and Haitian Creole interpreters as well as Professionally Qualified interpreters for other languages for those districts where interpreters are not readily available. The use of TIP is limited to brief hearings, not to exceed 45 minutes.
The SDFL is one of the provider courts for TIP and provides services nationwide in addition to intra-district services to outlying divisions in south Florida. Requests for TIP services should be directed to the Interpreters Office.
The Southern District of Florida covers the geographic area from Key West to the south to Ft. Pierce to the north. There are federal courthouses in Key West, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Ft. Pierce. (Southern District of Florida’s website) Contractors must advise the Interpreters Office of their availability to travel when necessary.
All hearings expected to exceed one hour require team interpreting. Team Interpreting is the use of two or more interpreters for trials or lengthy hearings. The interpreter not actively interpreting (known as the passive interpreter) researches terms, takes notes, monitors the interpretation being provided, and provides support to the active interpreter. Team interpreters alternate roles during the interpreted event.
Yes. New interpreters are trained in the use of equipment by the supervisory interpreter or staff member.