Information for Contract Interpreters

Interpreter Qualifications

Certified Interpreters

Certified interpreters have passed the Administrative Office certification examination. To date, certification programs have been developed for Spanish, Navajo and Haitian Creole. In these languages, the courts will select interpreters who have met the Administrative Office’s criteria for certification if the judge determines that certified interpreters are reasonably available.

The Administrative Office’s Spanish-English Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination(link is external) is administered in two phases. Candidates must pass the written exam in order to qualify to take an oral examination. The oral examination measures a candidate’s ability to accurately perform simultaneous as well as consecutive interpretation and sight translations as encountered in the federal courts. The certification programs for Navajo and Haitian Creole are no longer offered.

For other languages, individuals may contact local federal courts to determine if that court has a need for the language of expertise. The local federal court will determine on a case-by-case basis whether the prospective interpreter is either professionally qualified or language skilled. In languages other than Spanish, Navajo and Haitian-Creole, interpreters are designated as:

  • professionally qualified and
  • language skilled.

Professionally Qualified (PQ) Interpreters

Interpreters in languages for which the AO does not administer a federal certification examination currently are eligible to be categorized as Professionally Qualified upon submitting sufficient documentation and authentication that they meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Passed the U.S. Department of State conference or seminar interpreter test in a language pair that includes English and the target language. The U.S. Department of State’s escort interpreter test is not accepted as qualifying.
  2. Passed the interpreter test of the United Nations in a language pair that includes English and the target language.
  3. Passed the full version of an oral certification, criterion-referenced performance examination developed by the National Center for State Courts.
  4. Is a current member in good standing of:
  5. For sign language interpreters, someone who holds the Specialist Certificate: Legal (SC:L) of the
    Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID)(link is external).

Language-Skilled Ad Hoc Interpreters

An Interpreter who does not qualify as a professionally qualified interpreter, but who can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the court the ability to interpret court proceedings from English to a designated language and from that language into English, will be classified as a language skilled/ad hoc interpreter. Certified and professionally qualified interpreters are paid at a higher rate than language skilled/ad hoc interpreters.

Contract Interpreter Rates
Interpreter TypeFull DayHalf DayOvertime
AO Certified$566$320$80/hour
PQ & LS California State Certified$495$280$70/hour
LS & LS California Registered$350$190$44/hour


  1. The half-day rate is paid for services up to/including 4 hrs/day.
  2. The full-day rate is paid for services in excess of 4 hrs, up to/including 8.5 hrs/day (includes 1/2 hour for meal break).
  3. Overtime hourly rate applies after the first 8.5 hrs (includes 1/2 hour for meal break).

United States Courts Policies

The court’s employment of interpreters is subject to the Service Terms and Conditions and the Standards for Performance and Professional Responsibility of the United States Courts. This includes the policies on cancellation and early termination.

View United States Courts policy documents and other important information for interpreters, at the United States Courts federal court interpreters information page (

Fingerprint Requirements

Effective May 16, 2005, the Judicial Conference of the United States requires all new employees, externs and contractors to undergo fingerprint checks. A fingerprint check is a technical fingerprint search of the criminal history records in the FBI national fingerprint database to determine whether an arrest record exists for a particular individual.

Any contractor who has been hired for an assignment since May 16, 2005 and has not yet been fingerprinted must make immediate arrangements to be fingerprinted by the Human Resources Unit. All other contractors must be fingerprinted within 30 calendar days from the date of their next assignment with the court.

(For each courthouse, please contact in the order listed.)

Court Contacts for Interpreter-Related Questions

San Francisco

Melinda BaskerMelinda_Basker@cand.uscourts.gov415-522-2655
Clarissa BarnesClarissa_Barnes@cand.uscourts.gov415-522-2179
Liz NotewareLiz_Noteware@cand.uscourts.gov415-522-2057

San Jose

Kevin BlumbergKevin_Blumberg@cand.uscourts.gov408-535-5358
Adriana KratzmannAdriana_Kratzmann@cand.uscourts.gov408-535-5365


Odile HansenOdile_Hansen@cand.uscourts.gov510-637-3544


Melinda BaskerMelinda_Basker@cand.uscourts.gov415-522-2655