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the interpreter to appear in court.

If your court administrator, clerk, or ADA coordinator does not already have a relationship with an interpreter

service, check the state or national certified lists at


Remember, the court is responsible for locating, scheduling, assigning, and paying for qualified interpreters.

Also, since different signed languages exist, the court should verify the individual’s preferred language before

scheduling an interpreter.

What is the role of a qualified interpreter?

The qualified interpreter has two primary

responsibilities during a court proceeding:

(1) to listen to what is said in English and

convey the meaning in sign language, and (2)

to observe the communications of the deaf

or hard-of-hearing individual and interpret

them into English.

Professional interpreters know to interpret

everything that is said in the courtroom

without omissions or additions. They also

know not to conduct any side conversations.

Occasionally, however, questions posed

to a deaf or hard-of-hearing individual

may require the interpreter to break the

question down into more than one part in

order to fit the grammatical structure of sign

language. In those cases what may appear

as an exchange between the witness and the

interpreter is actually part of the interpreting

process and should not be misconstrued as a side conversation. The interpreter may also occasionally

request clarification if he or she does not understand a word or phrase.

Should an interpreter take an oath prior to the proceeding?

Yes. Here is a sample oath based on the language in the statute:


“Do you solemnly swear or affirm that

you will make a true interpretation of all case proceedings and discharge all of the duties and obligations of

legal interpretation and translation to your best skill and judgment so help you God?”

What can a judge do to assist the interpreted proceedings?

When using an interpreter, the judge may find it helpful to clarify the interpreter’s role to the parties prior

to the court proceeding. Other suggestions include:

• Ask for the interpreter’s input on the best location for the interpreter in relation to the others involved

in the communication.

• Speak directly to the deaf or hard-of-hearing individual, not to the interpreter.

• Speak in a natural speed and tone of voice, but speak clearly and slowly enough for the interpreter to

keep up.

• Sign language does not always have specific signs for specialized or technical words. Sometimes

interpreters will need to “fingerspell” specialized or technical words or may need help understanding

the concept first in order to provide an equivalent sign or interpretation. Providing vocabulary lists,

documents, or pleadings to the interpreters in advance will ensure a more successful and accurate


Sign language

does not

always have


signs for


or technical