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Frequently Asked Questions about Court Interpreters

Find answers to some general questions that may come up regarding the use of foreign or sign language interpreters in the Circuit Courts for Baltimore County.

Q: When does the Court need to appoint an interpreter?

A: The Court will need to appoint a foreign or sign language interpreter for any "court" related event where a party or witness cannot communicate the spoken or English language. This may be for any type of court related process or event such as a hearing or a scheduling conference. It does not include events that are not court connected such as depositions or pre-trial conferences between the parties and their attorneys. The Court will, however, provide you with a list of interpreters if you need to retain one for one of the latter.

Q: How do you actually obtain an interpreter and what information do I need to collect before requesting one?

A: In order to obtain an interpreter in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, an attorney or party must call the Court Administrator's Office at 410-887-2687 or fax the interpreter form (PDF) to 410-887-4806. Generally, you should have the case name, the case number, the type of proceeding, the date and time that the case will be heard. You should also know how long the proceeding will take, who you will need the interpreter for (party, witness, parent of respondent, etc.) and the names and addresses of all attorneys involved. It is also important to know the type of interpreter you will need and whether there is any special dialect or language requirement (such as American Sign Language). .

Q: Is it necessary to file a motion and an order for the Court to appoint an interpreter in every case?

A:  An order and motion are no longer necessary; however, a written request should be filed in the Clerk's Office. You also need to contact the Court Administrator's Office at 410-887-2687. Once the request is received, the attorneys will be notified of the appointment in the mail.

Q: Who actually pays for the interpreter...the Court or the parties ?

A: The Court will pay for interpreters for the parties or the witnesses at all Court scheduled events, unless the judge requires that the costs should be taxed as part of court costs. The court does not pay for interpreters that will be used during the pre-trial stage such as deposition hearings, nor is one provided at trial for purposes of holding attorney /client discussions. If interpreters are needed for these purposes, they should be retained independently by the attorneys or the parties themselves.

Q; How much does it cost to retain an interpreter?

A: The hourly rate for an interpreter varies between $30 and $45 per hour. This rate depends upon the type of interpreter, how much advance notice is given to obtain one and the time of day the interpreter is utilized (i.e. evenings and weekends). All interpreters are paid a two hour minimum, mileage at $.34 per mile and parking. Most interpreters require at least 24 hours for cancellation and some need 48 hours. This means that payment of these costs may be required if sufficient cancellation is not provided.

Q: What type of proceedings does a court appointed interpreter appear and what is the role of the interpreter?

A: Court interpreters can normally be assigned to any proceeding before a judge or a master and can include other court approved programs such as: scheduling conferences; mediation sessions; and divorce education classes. The role of the interpreter in a court proceeding is completely neutral. He or she is appointed to make certain that all testimony is translated as accurately as possible so that all of the parties, witnesses, attorneys, jurors, the judge and court staff can understand what is being read or stated.

At no time, should an interpreter express or interject their personal opinions into the translation. Any ethical conflicts regarding the assignment should be brought to the attention of the Court Administrator's Office prior to appointment or if not realized until the day of the hearing to the trial judge during the proceeding.

Q: How much lead time is necessary for the Court to obtain an interpreter?

A: It is important to contact the Court Administrator's Office at least two weeks before the actual date that you will need an interpreter. If you need an interpreter for a protracted case or if the language that you need interpreted is somewhat unique, you may want to plan on more time.

Q: What happens if a case settles or may be postponed, what needs to be done? Do I still need an interpreter?

Answer: You should notify the Court Administrator's Office as soon as possible so that another date can be obtained for an interpreter if the case is postponed. Likewise if the case is settled by a consent agreement or through some pre-trial dispositive motion, then it will be important to notify the same office so that a cancellation can be made. Two hour minimal charges may be assessed if sufficient time is not given.

Q: Is there a list of approved interpreters? Are all interpreters certified? By whom?

A: Not all interpreters are certified in Maryland since a test is not administered in all languages, however, the Court must appoint an interpreter from the Maryland Court Interpreter List which is available in the Court Administrator's Office. In order to get on this list, interpreters must attend a mandatory workshop on interpreters which is conducted by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Q: If someone is interested in becoming an interpreter, what do they need to do?

A: For more information on how to get on the list or obtain a complete list of interpreters contact the Administrative Office of the Courts Maryland Court Interpreters or call 410-260-1291.

Revised January 20, 2012

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