The presiding judge determines if a party or a witness speaks only or primarily a language other than English or has a hearing impairment (whether or not suffering also from a speech impairment), so as to inhibit that person’s comprehension or communication in the proceeding. Guide to Judiciary Policy ("Guide"), Volume 5, Ch 2 §210.10 (a). The information below is intended to clarify who has responsibility for retaining the services of an interpreter when needed.
HEARING IMPAIRMENT - APPOINTMENT OF QUALIFIED SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER
The presiding judicial officer may appoint a certified or otherwise qualified sign language interpreter to provide services to a party, witness, or other participant in a judicial proceeding, whether or not the proceeding is instituted by the United States, if the presiding judicial officer determines, on such officer’s own motion or on the motion of a party or other participant in the proceeding, that such individual suffers from a hearing impairment. 28 USCA § 1827(l).
PRIVATE PARTIES IN CIVIL ACTIONS WHERE THE UNITED STATES IS NOT A PARTY OR IS A DEFENDANT (IN COURT AND OUT OF COURT)
In civil actions not instituted by the United States where the assistance of an interpreter is needed for a party involved in the action, the attorney for that party should retain the services of a certified or otherwise qualified interpreter and provide compensation. The party (including an agency of the United States) requiring the services of an interpreter is responsible for payment of the interpreter’s compensation and expenses. Guide, Vol 5, Ch 2 §225.20.
WHEN AN INTERPRETER IS REQUIRED FOR AN IN COURT CIVIL OR CRIMINAL PROCEEDING IN A CASE WITH USA PLAINTIFF
In any situation where the presiding judge determines a defendant or a defendant's witness requires the assistance of an interpreter for an in court civil or criminal proceeding, the Clerk’s Office will retain the services of a certified or otherwise qualified interpreter. Compensation will be charged to the centralized contract court interpreter fund. 28 USC § 1827. It makes no difference whether the attorney is a CJA attorney, a federal public defender, or a retained attorney (since the judge must be able to understand the testimony of the witness, and a record of the proceeding cannot be completed without the assistance of the interpreter). Note: Occasionally, when an interpreter is needed on short notice (e.g., minutes before the hearing) but not available, judges have allowed others to interpret (e.g, AFPD, agent, defendant family member). Typically, the judge will ask the parties on the record if there is any objection before proceeding. No payment is made for such interpreting.
If a government witness requires the assistance of an interpreter in either a civil or criminal case, then the Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) is responsible for retaining the services of a certified or otherwise qualified interpreter and is responsible for paying for such services. Note: Habeas corpus petitions filed under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241 or 2254 and § 2255 motions are considered "judicial proceedings instituted by the United States" as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1827(j).
WHEN AN INTERPRETER IS REQUIRED IN A CASE WITH USA PLAINTIFF FOR AN OUT OF COURT CONSULTATION IMMEDIATELY BEFORE OR AFTER AN IN COURT PROCEEDING
Interpreter services by a contract interpreter may be provided to a federal public defender or CJA attorney at no expense to the Defender Services appropriation or to the CJA 18USC §3006A fund, for short client consultation between attorney and client if interpreting occurs in the courthouse immediately before and/or after a proceeding (as covered by 28 U.S.C. § 1827), and only if the matter is incidental to a court proceeding that was already scheduled to take place. Such interpreting arrangements should be authorized in advance by a judge, the clerk of court, or the judge’s or clerk’s designee. Guide, Vol 5, Ch 2 §220.20
WHEN AN INTERPRETER IS REQUIRED IN A CASE WITH USA PLAINTIFF FOR AN OUT OF COURT CONSULTATION NOT IMMEDIATELY BEFORE OR AFTER AN IN COURT PROCEEDING
- CJA APPOINTED ATTORNEY
If the attorney is a CJA appointed attorney, services are to be paid under CJA 18 USC § 3006A, not under 28 USC §1827.
- FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER
Federal Public Defenders who retain a certified or otherwise qualified interpreter for use outside of court proceedings are compensated out of the Defender Services appropriation. Their office handles compensation for these out of court expenses, not the Clerk’s Office.
- RETAINED COUNSEL
In any civil or criminal proceeding, retained counsel may hire interpreters to facilitate communication with a client or witness who speaks only or primarily a language other than English. Retained attorneys are responsible for retaining a certified or otherwise qualified interpreter and providing compensation.
The cost of interpreters used to facilitate communication between a client or witness and retained counsel in preparation for and following court proceedings are paid by the party, and the rates may be negotiated between the interpreter and the party.
Authority: Guide to Judiciary Policy Volume 5 - Court Interpreting, 18 USC §3006A - Criminal Justice Act, and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1827 and 1828