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Court Interpreters

Circuit Court Interpreter Policy

If there is a need for an interpreter for a party or witness in any Circuit Court case, the party or his or her attorney shall promptly notify the Court by using the Request for Spoken Language Interpreter (PDF) Form found on the Maryland Judiciary website or, if a sign language interpreter is needed, the Request for Accommodation for Person with Disability Form (PDF). Requests should be made no less than 10 days prior to a scheduled court event, absent extraordinary circumstances. A delay in notifying the Court of the need for an interpreter may result in the inability to handle a case on the scheduled date. Requests for interpreters must be specific as to the language and, if appropriate, the particular dialect or signing system that may be needed. The request must also specify for whom the interpreter is needed. You can see which court events are covered by this policy on the Maryland Judiciary website.

The Request for Spoken Language Interpreter form shall be filed with the Clerk’s Office. A party, or his or her attorney, must indicate the length of the scheduled court event. Unless the Court is advised of a case’s specific duration, the Court will only hire interpreters for a single morning or afternoon session.

Once an interpreter has been appointed in a case, there is no need for the party or his or her attorney to submit a new request for each court event. The party requesting an interpreter shall remain responsible for confirming that an interpreter has been ordered and shall notify the Court immediately if the need for the interpreter changes. If it becomes necessary to cancel an interpreter for a court-scheduled event, then the party or his or her attorney should complete a Cancellation of Interpreter Form (PDF) and either mail it to the Court Administrator’s Office (County Courts Building, Room 421, 401 Bosley Avenue, Towson, Maryland 21204) or email to CourtInterpreter@baltimorecountymd.gov. If a request for interpreter is not canceled at least 48 hours in advance of the trial or hearing, the Court will be billed for the interpreter’s services. If the Court is billed for an interpreter needlessly as a result of counsel’s failure to advise the Court that the interpreter will not be needed, or because counsel or a litigant does not appear in court in a timely fashion, the Court may assess the interpreter costs against the party or counsel causing the unnecessary expense.

Baltimore County has the benefit of a Spanish-speaking interpreter who is employed by the Clerk’s Office. The interpreter, or a supplemental Spanish-speaking back-up interpreter, is available on a daily basis when court is in session. The interpreter’s regular presence in the courthouse allows some Spanish-speaking matters to go forward without delay. The fact that a Spanish-speaking interpreter may be available does not obviate attorneys and parties of the requirement to make a timely request for an interpreter’s presence in court by filling out and submitting the Request for Spoken Language Interpreter form.   

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to questions regarding the use of foreign or sign language interpreters in the Circuit Courts.

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, 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) 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 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 and 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 (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: At 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?

A: 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 June 28, 2017         

 

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