FAQ's on Getting an Interpreter

Q. Does the court system accommodate requests for an interpreter?

A. The court system provides foreign language interpreters and sign interpreters for non-English speaking persons and those who are hearing impaired, free of charge, to insure that parties can clearly understand proceedings and are able to effectively participate in court programs and services.

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Q. What do I do if I need a foreign language or sign language interpreter for a court appearance?

A. In order to provide interpreters when and where they are needed, it is important that the request for an interpreter be communicated to the court as early as possible. A litigant or his/her attorney may notify the Chief Clerk's office of the need for an interpreter, and the specific language or dialect being requested. Advance notice of the need for language services will help to prevent delays.
If you do not know how to reach the court, you may call the Office of Language Access at (646) 386-5670 for a proper referral.

Q. What foreign language interpreters are available in the court system?

A. The court system provides interpreters in over 100 different languages each year, including but not limited to: Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, French, Greek, Haitian Creole, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Urdu and Wolof.
Where a court does not have a staff interpreter available, the court system provides the interpreter by contacting individuals or interpreting services who have qualified to be listed on the UCS Registry of Per Diem Interpreters.

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Q. What are a court interpreter's responsibilities?

A. Interpreters must provide an accurate, impartial interpretation of court proceedings. To insure that per diem interpreters meet the high standard set by the UCS, the court system has established rigorous written and oral testing and screening measures, first in English and, then, in one of 22 foreign languages. Where a foreign language exam does not exist, the interpreter must provide academic and professional credentials to support a proficiency in that language. All per diem interpreters who successfully complete this eligibility process must undergo a background check and officially swear to discharge the duties of the position of court interpreter to the best of their ability. Once this process has been completed, the interpreter will be added to the UCS Registry of Per Diem Interpreters which is maintained by the Office of Language Access (OLA).
Court Interpreters are required to observe a Code of Professional Conduct that states they are expected to provide interpreting services in an impartial, accurate and proficient manner. Failure to comply with the code may result in removal from the UCS Registry of Per Diem Interpreters eligible to work in the courts.

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Q. How do court interpreters know there are standards of professional conduct?

A. All court interpreters, staff or per diem, receive a copy of the UCS Court Interpreter Manual and the Court Interpreter Canons of Professional Responsibility. The standards of professional conduct and ethical behavior are found and reinforced in this manual.

Court Interpreters are also expected to participate in training programs provided by the court system on topics such as ethics, domestic violence and sensitivity to cultural diversity.

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Q. Where may I direct questions concerning language access and court interpreting services?

A. Any question, comment or complaint concerning court interpreting services may be directed to the Office of Language Access for response or referral to the appropriate court personnel.

For further information, you may contact the office in writing, by e-mail or by telephone:

Division of Professional and Court Services
Office of Language Access
25 Beaver Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10004
(646) 386-5670
[email protected]

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