Court Translators

August 10, 2023

What if you are suing someone to get a judgment, or at your post-judgment debtor or third-party examination; the other party claims they do not speak English well or at all, and has their (perhaps court-appointed) interpreter with them.

One of many judgment articles: I am a Judgment Broker, not a lawyer, and this article is my opinion based on my experience, please consult with a lawyer if you need legal advice.

Use of translators in court proceedings is not rare. Some translators are certified and others are not. Some courts make non-certified translators swear in, and let certified translators skip being sworn in. If you suspect shenanigans (for example, for every word you say, the interpreter says 25 foreign words to your party), try to get them sworn in anyway.

Some lawyers and judgment enforcers, get a sworn declaration from the interpreter that they declare to interpret correctly, word for word, and not to inject any opinions or suggestions. The court reporter should have a copy of the oath handy, and so should the court clerk. Court reporters usually swear the translators in, before the proceedings start. Different states have different oaths:

In Texas, the court reporter would say to the interpreter, “Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the interpretation you will give in this deposition will be from English to (another language) and from (another language) to English to the best of your ability?”.

In Tennessee, the oath is: “Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will interpret accurately, completely and impartially, using your best skill and judgment in accordance with the standards prescribed by law and the Rules of Ethics for Spoken Foreign Language Interpreters in Tennessee Courts; that you will follow all official guidelines established by this court for legal interpreting or translating, and discharge all of the solemn duties and obligations of legal interpretation and translation?”.

In Florida, the oath is: “Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will make a true interpretation to the witness of all questions or statements made to [him][her] in a language which that person understands, and interpret the witness’s statements into the English language, to the best of your abilities, so help you God?”.

There are court translation companies that can be hired to provide translators. There are websites for court translators, and often you can save money by shopping around for the ones that service courts in your county.

Each state has its own laws concerning court interpreters. In California, interpreters are covered by Evidence Code sections 750-755.5. Sometimes, a judge will challenge the interpreter when they use a lot more words than they were told. Sometimes this cannot be avoided because certain languages such as Vietnamese, typically use several words for each English word.

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