Frequently Asked Questions
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 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.
Certified interpreters have passed the Administrative Office certification examination. Certification programs have been developed for Spanish, Navajo, and Haitian-Creole. For these languages, the courts will select interpreters who have met the Administrative Offices criteria for certification.
The Administrative Offices Spanish-English Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination is administered in two phases. Interpreters must pass the written exam in order to qualify for the oral examination. The oral examination measures a candidates ability to accurately perform simultaneous as well as consecutive interpretation and sight translations as encountered in the federal courts.
To be considered a professionally qualified interpreter, an individual must submit a resume to the Court detailing his/her education, training experience, current telephone number, mailing address, and when applicable, membership accreditations as described below. The documentation received will be sent to the Administrative Office, for the interpreter to be classified as professionally qualified or language skilled.
Individuals who can demonstrate to the court that they are eligible in either of the two ways set forth below may be classified as professionally qualified.
The Administrative Office of the Courts determines 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.
Certified Contract Interpreters:
Professionally Qualified Interpreters
- Previous employment as a conference or seminar interpreter with any United States agency or with the United Nations or a similar entity may be deemed professionally qualified if the conditions for employment included successfully passing an interpreter examination; or
Membership in good standing in a professional interpreter association that requires:
- a minimum of 50 hours of conference interpreting experience in the language(s) of expertise; and
- sponsorship from three active members of that same association who have been members for at least two years; whose language(s) are the same as the applicants; and who will attest to having witnessed the applicants performance and to the accuracy of the statements on the applications.
- Language Skilled Interpreters
Interpreters who are not certified (Spanish, Navajo, or Haitian-Creole) or designated as professionally qualified, as described above, but who can demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the court, their ability to effectively interpret from the foreign language into English, and vice versa, in court proceedings, may be classified as language skilled interpreters.
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.
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/d_research/fcice_exam/index.htm.
Please refer to the Court Interpreters Act.
You may contact the Clerks Office for a list of interpreters but you are responsible for making all arrangements directly with the interpreter(s), including payment. You may also refer to the Court Interpreters Act.
You may review the Notice of Hearing docket entry to determine who the interpreter will be for the court hearing. The attorney is responsible for making arrangements with the interpreter to meet with the attorney and defendant before or after the scheduled court hearing. A contract court interpreter cannot receive duplicate payment for the Court appearance and for meeting with the attorney and client. Since the interpreter is being paid by the Court for a half-day rate, the interpreter cannot charge another federal court unit, for services that fall within the half day rate. Federal Court units would include, Federal Public Defender, CJA Attorney, and U.S. Probation.
The half-day rate includes travel time to and from the courthouse to the interpreters residence as well as services provided to the Court not to exceed four hours, if services provided to the court exceeds four hours, the interpreter will be compensated at the full-day rate. Full-day rate is considered to be travel time to and from the courthouse to the interpreters residence as well as services provided to the Court not to exceed eight hours, with the overtime rate to accrue after eight hours.
You may contact your own interpreter to meet with you and your client before or after the scheduled court hearing. If you are a CJA Attorney, you should complete a CJA21 before any services are rendered.
First, the attorney must apply for funds by submitting to the Court a CJA 21. The CJA 21 and instructions can be located on our website at http://www.med.uscourts.gov/forms-instructions.
Secondly, the District of Maine encourages appointed counsel to negotiate a fee arrangement, which is reasonable and provides the greatest value to the government. Interpreters may, for work performed under the CJA, bill at the current attendance rates which apply to contract court interpreters based upon their qualification; certified or non-certified. If an hourly rate can be negotiated and comes at a savings to the government, counsel is urged to negotiate a reasonable hourly rate in lieu of the half-day rate or full-day rate.
Translation of documents for court appointed counsel outside of Court proceedings may be payable under the Criminal Justice Act. Interpreters should refer to the Department of State rate schedule for per-word rates for written work.
*Compensation Rates (effective 2/1/2010)
You must submit a cover letter, proof of credentials, resume, along with a completed fiscal year contract. The documents can be mailed to Clerks Office, 156 Federal Street, Portland ME 04101.
As mandated by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, all interpreters contracted for work in court must undergo a background check as well as provide their fingerprints for an FBI fingerprint check.
Cancellations less than 24 hours prior to the assignment will be paid in accordance to the provisions in the contract.
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.
Certified and Professionally Qualified Court Interpreters
*Compensation Rates (effective 2/1/2010)
Yes. There are several professional translator and interpreter organizations. They include 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).
The Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO) has established the Judiciarys Telephone Interpreting Program (TIP) to provide remote interpretation for court proceedings where certified or professionally qualified court interpreters are not reasonably available locally. In 1994, the Judicial Conference approved the program to provide simultaneous interpreting for short court proceedings, such as:
- Pretrial hearings;
- Initial appearances;
- Arraignments; and
- Probation and pretrial services interviews.
Most telephone interpreting through TIP is handled by staff interpreters at the provider courts. The provider courts contract with certified or qualified interpreters for additional support as needed. All TIP services for events requiring Spanish are provided by federally certified court interpreters. The use of TIP is limited to brief hearings not to exceed 1 hour.
Yes. A case manager will train new interpreters in the use of the interpreting equipment.
For work performed on or after June 1, 2012, interpreters procured by CJA-appointed counsel will be paid only for actual hours worked.
For information on maximum CJA compensation rates for interpreting, for compensation rates for translation, and information on submitting the CJA 21 Voucher for Expert Services, please click on the link http://www.med.uscourts.gov/pdf/Informational_Handout_re_Interpreters.pdf
*Compensation Rates (effective 2/1/2010)
According to the District of Maine Interpreting Plan, an interpreters should refer to the Department of State rate schedule for per-word rates for written work.
Questions? If you have comments or questions, please contact one of the individuals listed below: