LOCAL ROSTER OF INTERPRETERS
INFORMATION FOR INTERPRETERS
For purposes of the United States District Court, the Court Interpreters Act of 1978 (PL 95-539) requires the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts to prescribe, determine, and certify the qualifications of persons who serve as interpreters in federal courts, when the Director considers such certification to be merited. At this time, federal certification is available for Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Navajo. The clerk’s office and court will determine the qualifications of interpreters of all other languages.
In accordance with the Department of State Translation Rates current at the time of the translation. Contact the Clerk’s Office at (605) 330-6600 for current written rate information. Translators accredited by the American Translators Association are listed at: http://www.atanet.org/onlinedirectories. It would be extremely rare that a document would have to be translated from English into a foreign language, since the language of the courts is English. In most instances, the translation of documents is an expense the parties must bear. If a non-English-speaking defendant or other participant(s) in a court proceeding needs to be advised of the content of an English-language document, or the court needs to be advised of the content of a non-English-language document, this should be done by means of a sight translation. The clerk’s office does not maintain a local roster of translators. For more information you may contact the American Translators Association’s listing of translators
The rate schedule in effect as of January 1, 2023 is as follows:
Federally Certified Interpreters:
Full Day: $566
Half Day: $320
Overtime: $80 per hour or part thereof
Certified and Professionally Qualified Interpreters:
Full Day: $495
Half Day: $280
Overtime: $70 per hour or part thereof
Language Skilled Interpreters:
Full Day: $350
Half Day: $190
Overtime: $44 per hour or part thereof
See Guidelines for Qualifying Court Interpreters.
LATE CANCELLATION POLICIES
An interpreter shall be paid fees for services on the basis of days and half days. More than four hours and up to eight hours, excluding normal meal periods, constitutes a full day of service. Four hours or less shall constitute a half day’s service. An interpreter who is called to, and appears at the courthouse and is not used shall be compensated for a minimum of a half day.
If the interpreter is not notified by the court of the cancellation at least 24 hours prior to the start of an assignment, the interpreter shall be paid compensation for at least a half day’s services and, if applicable, per diem travel expenses in accordance with the Judiciary Travel Regulations, unless otherwise agreed in advance.
The Clerk’s Office provides interpreter service for the court. For a detailed description of which proceedings qualify for appointed interpreters, please refer to sections (a) and (j) of the Court Interpreters Act.
While the United States Attorney’s Office secures interpreters for prosecution witnesses, counsel should contact, contract, and pay for interpreters when their services are needed for attorney/client meetings outside the courtroom. Please refer to the Local Roster of Interpreters. In addition, you may contact the Clerk’s Office at (605) 330-6600 for assistance regarding interpreter services and for additional interpreters not listed.
Retained Counsel: For other than in-court hearings, it will be your responsibility to secure the services of a qualified interpreter and pay for those services. In extenuating circumstances, you may, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(e), make a motion to the court for authorization to obtain the services of an interpreter to be paid for by the United States.
CJA Counsel: The defendant will be provided an interpreter for the initial proceedings. It will be your responsibility to advise the court and clerk’s office if interpreter services will be necessary throughout the duration of the case. If your client waives the services of an interpreter and you later determine an interpreter is necessary, you must advise the court and clerk’s office. For other than in-court hearings such as conferences with your client or the probation office, you may refer to “Local Roster of Interpreters”. Please contact the Clerk’s Office at (605) 330-6600 to obtain the necessary CJA form for payment of interpreter services.
When interpreters are needed for prosecution witnesses, the United States Attorney’s Office secures contract interpreters as needed. When defense witnesses need interpreters, in cases that qualify for appointed interpreters (For a detailed description of which proceedings qualify for appointed interpreters, please refer to sections (a) and (j) of the Court Interpreters Act.), defense counsel should notify the clerk’s office. If the language needed by the witness is the same as the defendant’s, it is customary for the proceedings interpreters to also interpret for the defense witness. As with any interpreter requests, in cases that qualify for appointed interpreters, the clerk’s office should be notified of any witness interpreter changes, continuances, or cancellations as soon as possible in order to avoid late-cancellation situations. If a witness interpreter appears but is not used, that interpreter is entitled to payment.
Professional Organizations for Interpreters and Translators
The Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination for Spanish-English interpreters is administered under contract from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts with the National Center for State Courts. For more Information see Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination Program (FCICE).
References and Forms For Interpreters
Standards for Performance and Professional Responsibility for Contract Court Interpreters in Federal Courts
GUIDELINES FOR QUALIFYING COURT INTERPRETERS
AO (Administrative Office of the United States Courts) Certified Interpreters: An interpreter who has successfully completed the Federal Court Interpreter Examination (FCICE) for a language in which an examination is currently available. At this time, examinations are available for the Spanish, Navajo, and Haitian Creole languages.
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 (languages other than Spanish, Navajo, and Haitian Creole); and
• language-skilled interpreters (all languages)
Professionally Qualified Interpreters: The category of professionally qualified interpreters applies only to languages other than Spanish, Navajo, and Haitian Creole. Credentials for professionally qualified interpreters require sufficient documentation and authentication, and must meet the criteria in one of the following:
1. Passed the State Department conference or seminar interpreter test in a language pair that includes English and the target language. The State Department’s escort interpreter test is not accepted as qualifying.
2. Passed the interpreter test of the United Nations in a language pair that includes English and the target language.
3. Is a current member in good standing of:
a. the Association Internationale des Interpretes de Conference (AIIC); or
b. The American Association of Language Specialists (TAALS).
The language pair of the membership qualification must be English and the target language.
4. For sign language interpreters, someone who holds the Specialist Certificate: Legal (SC:L) of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID).
Language Skilled/Ad Hoc Interpreters: Interpreters who do not qualify as “professionally qualified” interpreters or certified interpreters, but who can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the court their ability to interpreter court proceedings from English to a designated language and from that language to English, will be placed on the court’s local list and will be included on the Director’s master list as a “language skilled/ad hoc interpreter.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What section of the U.S. Code authorizes interpreters to be used in Federal Courts?
A: 28 U.S.C. § 1827
Q: What is a certified interpreter?
A: A certified interpreter is an individual who has passed an interpreter certification exam, usually mandated by legislation.
Q: Which languages are federally certified?
A: Federal certification is available in Spanish, Haitian Creole, and Navajo.
Q: 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?
A: It is up to the court to determine the qualifications of interpreters of languages where there is no federal certification available. New interpreters are screened prior to being placed on the court’s local roster. A signed Contract Court Interpreter Services Terms and Conditions document is kept on file in the department.
Q: What about criminal background checks for interpreters?
A: In keeping with the directive from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, all interpreters contracted for work must undergo a background check. Interpreters must provide their fingerprints for an FBI fingerprint check.
Q: Who pays for the services of an interpreter in federal court?
A: In 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 governmental 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 counsel needs the services of an interpreter away from the courthouse, they should make arrangements to contact, contract, and pay the interpreter. Please refer to “For Attorneys” below.
Q: When does a case qualify for a court-appointed interpreter?
A: 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.
Q: How does an attorney go about finding an interpreter?
A: Attorneys may refer to the links below and the “Local Roster of Interpreters”.
Q: What about persons who are deaf or hearing impaired?
A: Federal Courts are required to provide reasonable accommodations to persons with communications disabilities. Participants in judicial proceedings who are deaf or hearing impaired are entitled to court-appointed interpreters or listening assisted devices. Contact the Clerk’s Office at (605) 330-6600 for information regarding ADA related services.
Q: Does the court certify written translations?
A: No. Interpreters certify their own translation work.
Q: Is there federal certification for translators?
A: 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.
Q: Will the court pay to have the indictment or other documents translated into a foreign language?
A: 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 payment of 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 for the United States Courts apply.