All official court business in California is conducted in English. When a party or witness in a case has limited English proficiency, that person may need a court interpreter to communicate in court proceedings and understand what is happening. Court interpreters are experts in language interpretation and are assigned only to render linguistically equivalent interpretation from one language into another. For more information on what court interpreters can and cannot do, please click here.
Finding an Interpreter
The court provides court interpreters at no cost to the party in all criminal, traffic, juvenile delinquency, juvenile dependency, and other mandated case types. If you need an interpreter in one of those case types, you or your attorney may request one from the clerk at the counter when filing your case or the courtroom staff at the time of your hearing. Please make such requests at least a week before your hearing. If you wait until the date of your hearing to request an interpreter in one of those case types, you may have to wait until an interpreter can be contacted, or your hearing may be continued to a future date.
Effective July 1st, 2015, the court will also provide court interpreters at no cost to the party in certain civil and family law case types. The court will attempt to provide interpreters in the highest priority cases, using the priority set forth by the Legislature in Assembly Bill 1657. At this time, the court attempts to provide interpreters for cases in Priority 1 through Priority 7. For more information on those priorities and the case types that fall into each priority, please click here. If you need an interpreter in one of those case types, you should file Local Form PL-CW005: Request for Interpreter (Civil & Family Law), which is available at the link directly below.
PL-CW005, Interpreter Request Form for Civil and Family Law, Effective July 1, 2015
PL-CW005S, Interpreter Request Form for Civil and Family Law (Spanish), Effective July 1, 2015
Please file the form at least a week before your hearing. If you wait until the date of your hearing to request an interpreter in one of those case types and an interpreter cannot be provided, you are not automatically entitled to having your hearing continued to a future date.
Although the court will attempt to provide interpreters in civil and family law case types, interpreters are not mandated in those case types and the court may not be able to provide an interpreter in some instances, due to funding and availability constraints. If the court cannot provide you with an interpreter, you may ask someone to interpret for you, but do not ask a child. Keep in mind that even if someone speaks both English and your first language, that does not mean they would be a good interpreter. A court interpreter needs to be familiar with legal terms and concepts in both English and your first language, and most people are not. If you decide to use a an interpreter that is not certified or registered, have them read the instructions and duties for interpreting on Judicial Council Form INT-200: Foreign Language Interpreter’s Duties-Civil and Small Claims. You may also consider contacting a professional certified or registered court interpreter, which you can find by clicking here.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The court also provides American Sign Language interpreters, real-time captioning, and other accommodations for parties, witnesses, and jurors that are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or that have another disability. To learn more about the court’s policy for accommodating person with disabilities, please visit the “Access Information for Persons with Disabilities” section of this website by clicking here.
Becoming an Interpreter
If you are interested in becoming a court interpreter, you can find more information on the California Courts website by clicking here.