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Court Interpreter

Superior Court of California, County of Santa Barbara Santa Maria Full-time

The current opening is located in Santa Maria.

Under supervision, performs a wide variety of language interpretation activities on an assigned and as-needed basis for the California Superior Trial Courts and for persons doing business with the courts. This includes but is not limited to verbal interpreting/translating of questions, testimony, arguments, written and legal documents, and other courtroom proceedings for defendants, judges, counsel, jurors, witnesses, and others.

In order to qualify for this position, you must be in possession of a valid certificate as a "Certified Court Interpreter" issued by the Judicial Council of California on behalf of the State of California in the language ofSpanish.

Examples of Duties

  • Interprets from and into English and the applicable non-English language using simultaneous and consecutive modes at court proceedings.
  • Makes sight translations of documents for the benefit of the court.
  • Interprets for judges, attorneys, court staff, and other justice-related partners.
  • Interprets court procedures to non-English-speaking persons at the direction of Court management.
  • Researches and understands terminology used in legal proceedings.
  • Performs other interpretive duties as assigned.
  • Accurately completes daily activity logs or other paperwork as required.
  • Travels within the County.

Employment Standards

  1. Possession of a valid Certificate as a "Certified Court Interpreter" issued by the Judicial Council of California on behalf of the State of California in the language of Spanish, AND
  2. A valid California Class "C" driver's license, or the ability to utilize an alternative method of transportation when needed to carry out job-related duties.

Required Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

  • Ability to orally convey the meaning from and into English and the applicable non-English language by interpreting in the simultaneous, consecutive, and sight translation modes.
  • Ability to accurately convey meaning, without editing, summarizing, adding meaning, or omitting, ability to interpret impartially.
  • Ability to use correct grammar and vocabulary of English and non-English language specified.
  • Knowledge of culture and customs of the groups and communities using specified language.
  • Ability to use office equipment including computer, telephone, calculator, copiers, fax, and assisted-listening devices, as required by the assignment.
  • Knowledge of and adherence to all California statutes, Rules of Court, and applicable personnel rules concerning court interpretation.
  • Knowledge of and adherence to interpreter ethics and standards as stipulated in California Rules of Court Rule 984.4, Professional Conduct for Interpreters.
  • Ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with those contacted in the course of the work.

Supplemental Information

Become an Interpreter

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1.What is a court interpreter?

Spoken language court interpreters interpret in civil or criminal court proceedings (e.g., arraignments, motions, pretrial conferences, preliminary hearings, depositions, trials) for witnesses or defendants who speak or understand little or no English. American Sign Language interpreters interpret for all parties who are deaf or hard of hearing in all proceedings. Court interpreters must accurately interpret for individuals with a high level of education and an extensive vocabulary, as well as for persons with very limited language skills without changing the language register of the speaker. Interpreters are also sometimes responsible for translating written documents, often of a legal nature, from English into the target language and from the target language into English.

2.What do court interpreters do?

California court interpreters have an important job in the courtroom: they interpret court proceedings for witnesses and defendants with limited English skills or for parties who are deaf or hard of hearing. The position requires strong memory and communication skills. Court interpreters shift between two different languages, in real time, accounting for different types of speech and grammar. They also know legal terms and commonly used courtroom forms and reports.

3.Are court interpreters in demand?

Very much so. According to a recent study, more than 200 languages are spoken in California. Of the state's 36 million people, about 20 percent speak English less than "very well." That's almost 7 million Californians who would need help from an interpreter if they found themselves in court.

4.What does it take to become a court interpreter?

First, interpreters need to be fluent in both English and a second language. Right now, court interpreters can be certified in the following 13 languages:

  • American Sign Language
  • Arabic
  • Armenian (Eastern)
  • Armenian (Western)
  • Cantonese
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Mandarin
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Tagalog
  • Vietnamese

People who master other languages can become registered interpreters with the same full-time pay and benefits that certified interpreters receive.

Court interpreters:

  • Interpret speech and text from English into a second language and back again in real time. The interpretation must be accurate without any editing, summarizing, omissions, or change in meaning
  • Maintain good working relationships with judges, attorneys, other court personnel, supervisors, and coworkers
  • Understand a variety of court procedures and practices

5.Is special training recommended to become a court interpreter?

Yes. Court interpreting is a very demanding job. Spoken language court interpreters must be completely fluent in both English and the second language, while court interpreters of American Sign Language must be completely fluent in both English and American Sign Language. The level of expertise required for this profession is far greater than that required for everyday bilingual conversation. The interpreter must be able to handle the widest range of language terms that may be presented in the courts--from specialized legal and technical terminology to street slang. Most people do not have a full command of all registers of both English and the foreign language and, therefore, require special training to acquire it.

Although there are no minimum requirements that must be met in order to apply to take the state certification test, applicants are encouraged to complete formal, college-level course work and training in both languages and modes of interpreting before applying for the examination. At present there are colleges and universities throughout the State of California that offer introductory courses and certificate programs in interpretation or translation ( However, most of these are for English/Spanish.

6.What is the difference between a certified and a registered interpreter?

Only interpreters who pass the Court Interpreter Certification Examination or the required exam for American Sign Language and fulfill the corresponding Judicial Council requirements are referred to as certified interpreters. Currently, there are certification examinations for 13 designated languages: American Sign Language, Arabic, Eastern Armenian, Western Armenian, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

Interpreters of spoken languages for which there is no state-certifying examination are required to pass the English Fluency Examination and fulfill the corresponding Judicial Council requirements in order to become a registered interpreter of a nondesignated language.

7.What happens when a previously nondesignated language is designated for certification?

Certifications may change periodically, depending on the results of studies of language use in the courts. When a language is designated for certification, there is a transitional period in which a new certification exam is developed and registered interpreters are given time to meet the requirements for certification.

8.What has the Judicial Council determined to be the requirements for becoming a certified court interpreter?

As approved by the Judicial Council on July 7, 1994, court interpreters must meet the following requirements for certification:

  • Pass the Court Interpreter Certification Examination or the "Specialist Certificate: Legal" exam for American Sign Language offered by an approved testing entity;
  • File for certification with the Judicial Council;
  • Pay the annual $100 fee;
  • Attend a Judicial Council Code of Ethics Workshop; and
  • Submit proof of 30 hours of continuing education and 40 assignments of recent professional interpreting experience every two years.

9.What are the requirements for registered interpreters of nondesignated languages?

Registered interpreters of nondesignated languages must satisfy the following requirements:

  • Pass an English Fluency Examination, offered by an approved testing entity;
  • File for registration with the Judicial Council;
  • Pay an annual fee of $100;
  • Attend a Judicial Council Code of Ethics Workshop;
  • Attend a Judicial Council Orientation Workshop; and
  • Meet the requirements developed for court interpreters regarding continuing education and professional experience.

10.What entity administers the Court Interpreter Certification Exams?

The AOC has contracted with Prometric to administer the Certified Court Interpreter and Registered Interpreter examinations. See the Exam Information page for more information.

11.Is certification required to become an American Sign Language Interpreter?

The Judicial Council also has the authority under California Evidence Code section 754(f) to designate testing entities for American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters. The council has determined that a qualified ASL interpreter is one who holds the following certificate:

  • "Specialist Certificate: Legal" issued by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) (

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