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Frequently Asked Questions

INTERPRETERS FAQs

General Questions

Q. What is a certified interpreter?

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).

Q. 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. (please refer to the Court Interpreters Act).

Q. 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 United States attorney is responsible for securing the services of such interpreters for government witnesses.

Q. If there is no federal certification in languages other than Spanish, who determines the qualifications of interpreters of languages other than Spanish?

 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 Office's criteria for certification.

The Administrative Office's 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 candidate's 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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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

 Q. Which languages are federally certified?

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).

Q. Are all interpreters certified?

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 https://www.ncsc.org.

 

Attorneys

Q. I am an AUSA and I need an interpreter for my trial witnesses. What is the procedure for scheduling interpreters for court proceedings?

Please refer to the Court Interpreters Act.

Q. I need an interpreter in a civil case. Should I request an interpreter through your office?

You may contact the Clerk's 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.

Q. I would like to talk to my client in the cell block before or after our scheduled court hearing. What should I do?

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 interpreter’s 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 interpreter’s residence as well as services provided to the Court not to exceed eight hours, with the overtime rate to accrue after eight hours.

OR

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.

Q. I am a CJA Attorney, and I need to obtain an interpreter so I can confer with my client. What do I need to do? And, how much should an interpreter charge for services?

First, the attorney must apply for funds by submitting to the Court a CJA 21. The CJA 21 and instructions can be located on the US Courts website here.

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.

 

 

Interpreters

Q. 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 must submit a cover letter, proof of credentials, resume, along with a completed fiscal year contract. The documents can be mailed to Clerk's Office, 156 Federal Street, Portland ME 04101.

Q. What about criminal background checks for interpreters?

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.

Q. The hearing/trial I was scheduled to cover was canceled. What is the cancellation policy?

Cancellations less than 24 hours prior to the assignment will be paid in accordance to the provisions in the contract.

Q. 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.

Q. What are the current rates for court interpreters in the federal courts?

Certified and Professionally Qualified Court Interpreters
 

*Compensation Rates (effective 10/1/2015)

  • Certified – Full Day $418, Half Day $226, Overtime $59/hour
    (There are only three languages certified by the Federal Courts: Spanish, Navajo and Haitian-Creole.)
  • Non-Certified - Full Day $202, Half Day $111, Overtime $35/hour

 

Q. Are there professional organizations for court interpreters and translators?

Yes. There are several professional translator and interpreter organizations. They include the Association Internationale des Interprètes de Conférence (AIIC) (www.aiic.org), the American Translators Association (www.atanet.org) and the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (www.najit.org).

Q. What is the Telephone Interpreting Program (TIP)

 The Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO) has established the Judiciary's 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.

 Q. Will I get training on the use of the Court's interpreting equipment?

Yes. A case manager will train new interpreters in the use of the interpreting equipment.

Q. How much should I charge CJA counsel for work performed outside the courtroom?

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 here.

 Q. How much should I charge to translate a document for court appointed counsel outside of a Court proceeding?

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:

Lindsey Caron
U.S. District Court
156 Federal Street
Portland, Maine 04101
(207) 780-3356 x5114

Jennifer Driscoll
U.S. District Court
202 Harlow Street
Bangor, Maine 04401
(207) 945-0575 x6444