Interpreters - General Information FAQs
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.
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.
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.
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.
Interpreters - For Attorneys FAQs
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.
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.
Interpreters - For Interpreters FAQs
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).
You need to submit proof of credentials, your resume and a cover letter addressed to the Supervisory Interpreter (Click here for contact information).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Q. 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.
Interpreters - Best Practices FAQs
Certified and Professionally Qualified Court Interpreters
Yes. There are several professional translator and interpreter organizations. They include the the Association Internationale des Interprètes de Conférence (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 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.