United States District & Bankruptcy Courts
Interpreter Information

Federal Court Interpreters

The use of competent federal court interpreters in proceedings involving speakers of languages other than English is critical to ensure that justice is carried out fairly for defendants and other stakeholders.  The Court Interpreters Act, 28 USC § 1827 provides that the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts shall prescribe, determine, and certify the qualifications of persons who may serve as certified interpreters, when the Director considers certification of interpreters to be merited, for the hearing impaired (whether or not also speech impaired) and persons who speak only or primarily a language other than the English language, in judicial proceedings instituted by the United States.

Interpreter FAQs

Updated on Jan 10, 2023


Where can I find a list of interpreters

Interpreter List

What are the interpreter fees?

Federally Certified:

Full Day $566
Half-Day $320 (4 hours or any fraction thereof)
Overtime $80 per hour


Professionally Qualified:

Full Day $495
Half-Day $280 (4 hours or any fraction thereof)
Overtime $70 per hour


Non-Certified (Language-skilled):

Full Day $350
Half-Day $190 (4 hours or any fraction thereof)
Overtime $44 per hour


Can I pay more than the non-certified rate for languages for which there is no federal certification?

Federal Certification is only provided for the Spanish, Navajo, and Haitian-Creole languages.  For the non-certified languages, the court can pay up to the certified rate ($566 for a full-day and $320 for a half-day) without approval from the Administrative Office if the interpreter is professionally qualified.

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Are there different rates for out-of-court services?

Yes.  General Order #253 authorizes interpreter services at $50 per hour for out-of-court services for non-certified interpreters (not to exceed $300 per day) with court-appointed counsel.  Certified interpreters may charge $60 per hour (not to exceed $360 per day).

Is there a rate for document translation services?

Yes.  The rates allowed for translation of documents is; 16.5 cents/word for general documents (documents that don't have specialized terminology), 17 cents/word for Semi-technical documents (document that contains some specialized terminology), and 18.5 cents/word for technical documents (documents with highly specialized or esoteric terminology and thus requires special expertise).

Is it a requirement to use a certified interpreter for translation of court documents?

There is no requirement to use a certified interpreter to translate documents.

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How can I ensure the quality of the interpreter?

If the interpreter is not federally certified, then the court may use the services of an "otherwise qualified interpreter."  Otherwise qualified interpreters consist of either "professionally qualified" or "language skilled" interpreters.

To qualify as "professionally qualified", an interpreter must:

1.  (a) Passed the U.S. Department of State conference or seminar interpreter test in a language pair that includes English and the target language.  The U.S. Department of State's escort interpreter test is not accepted as qualifying.

2.  (b) Passed the interpreter test of the United Nations in a language pair that includes English and the target language.

3.  (c) Is a current member in good standing of:

     1.  The Association Internationale des Interpretes de Conference (AIIC); or

     2.  The American Association of Language Specialists (TAALS).

4.  The language pair of the membership qualification must be English and the target language.

5.  (d) For sign language interpreters, someone who holds the Specialist Certificate: Legal (SC:L) of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) .

Interpreters who do not qualify as "professionally qualified 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 considered a language skilled interpreter.

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What is the process for an interpreter to become federally certified?

Becoming a federally certified Spanish interpreter is a two-step process.  First, the individual must take and successfully pass the written Spanish/English examination.  Next, they need to successfully pass the oral Spanish/English examination.  Once both exams are successfully passed, the candidate is considered federally certified.  The minimum time requirement to become certified is two years.  The written examination is administered one year, with the oral examination administered in the following year.

Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination (FCICE).  To receive updated testing information from FCICE, you may call the hot-line at (757) 259-7501.

Is an interpreter required for each defendant in multi-defendant trials?

No.  Simultaneous interpreting equipment is available to accommodate multi-defendant trials.  Many courts use Sennheiser interpreting equipment that would allow an interpreter to provide interpreting services to several defendants at the same time.  Not only will this reduce the amount spent on interpreting funds, but it will ensure that each defendant is receiving the same translation.

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Must a certified interpreter always be used for those languages for which there is federal certification (Spanish, Navajo and Haitian-Creole)?

The Court Interpreters Act, See 28 USC § 1827(d)(1), says "The presiding judicial officer, with the assistance of the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, shall utilize the services of the most available certified, or when no certified interpreter is reasonably available, as determined by the presiding judicial officer, the services of an otherwise qualified interpreter, in judicial proceedings instituted by the United States..."

Is the court responsible for providing interpreting services for the hearing impaired?

Yes. 28 USC § 1827(i) provides that, subject to the availability of appropriated funds, the appointment of sign language interpreters to provide services to a party, witness or other participant in a judicial proceeding, whether or not the proceeding is instituted by the U.S., if the presiding judicial officer determines that such individual suffers from a hearing impairment.  Judicial Conference policy also provides other appropriate auxiliary aids to deaf and hearing-impaired participants in federal court proceedings in accordance with guidelines prepared by the Administrative Office.

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Is the court responsible for providing interpreter services in civil proceedings?

In judicial proceedings instituted by the United States, an interpreter may be appointed by the presiding judicial officer as required by 28 USC § 1827(d)(1).  In bankruptcy courts, the presiding judicial officer will appoint an interpreter only if the United States initiates the proceedings.  In accordance with 28 USC appointed interpreters will be paid by the United States from appropriations available to the judiciary.

Where the Act does not require the appointment of an interpreter at the expense of the United States, the clerk may provide assistance to litigants in locating an available interpreter.

How do I find an interpreter for a language other than Spanish?

There are several resources for locating persons who interpret in other languages other than Spanish.  The State of Idaho Court Administrator's Office maintains a list of interpreters of all languages, sorted by judicial district.  The number for receiving a copy of this list is (208) 947-7417.

Other sources may be local hospitals, immigration and refugee organizations.  Chamber of Commerce and university-foreign language departments.  Also, professional translation services are listed in the yellow-pages.

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Who do I call if I have other questions about providing interpreting services in court?

Contact the Clerk's Office at (208) 334-1361.

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