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How to File a Complaint Against a Court Interpreter

Who Can File a Complaint?

A complaint can be filed by anyone who believes that a court interpreter has acted illegally, irresponsibly, or unprofessionally in providing court interpreter services. The most effective complaints are those that contain firsthand, verifiable information. While anonymous complaints will be reviewed, they may be impossible to pursue unless they contain documented evidence of the allegations made. Unless all persons are willing to be contacted and authorize release of information, the Board may be unable to investigate and prosecute a complaint.

Against Whom Can a Complaint be Filed?

Complaints can be filed against oral and sign language interpreters or translators in any legal proceeding, court-ordered program, or office of the Iowa Judicial Branch. Complaints also apply to real-time reporters when providing language access to court users. 

What Types of Complaints Does the Board Handle?

Complaints under the Board’s jurisdiction include the following grounds for discipline under Iowa Court Rule 47.10(5)(a)-(g):

  1. Violation of the Code of Professional Conduct for Court Interpreters and Translators
  2. Conviction of a felony in this state or any other jurisdiction or conviction of a lesser crime that involves dishonesty or moral turpitude. A crime is a felony if it is so defined in the jurisdiction where the conviction was entered at the time of the conviction.
  3. Disciplinary action involving the interpreter’s services in another jurisdiction.
  4. Discipline by the Board of Sign Language Interpreters and Transliterators pursuant to Iowa
    Administrative Code section 645—Chapter 363.
  5. Providing incompetent interpretation, which includes, but is not limited to, repeated incomplete or inaccurate interpretation that significantly inhibits or distorts communications between an LEP person and the court or between an LEP person and that person’s attorney.
  6. Dishonest billing for interpreter or translator services.
  7. Engaging in prohibited interpreting while suspended. This action may subject an interpreter to additional discipline. 

How Do I File a Complaint?

Complaints Against Oral Language Interpreters  

A complaint against an oral language court interpreter must be submitted in writing on the official complaint form. You can download a copy of the official complaint form by clicking here.

In the “description of what occurred” section, explain the nature of your complaint. Include as much detail as possible, as well as copies of any documents you have that can be used as evidence. Do not mail the originals. Include dates, times, and locations of depositions, trials, or other proceedings wherever possible. Do not worry about citing specific sections of the law that you feel have been violated unless you know them.  You must provide your contact information on the form and sign and date the form before you submit it.

Send the complaint form to:

Office of Professional Regulation
Judicial Branch Building
1111 East Court Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa  50319

Complaints Against Sign Language Interpreters 

Complaints against sign language interpreters  must be filed with the Iowa Board of Sign Language Interpreters and Translators (Board) and must follow the procedures outlined in Iowa Administrative Code 645—Chapter 363, Discipline for Sign Language Interpreters and Transliterators.  The sign language interpreter must notify the Office of Professional Regulation that a complaint has been filed with the board.

How are Complaints Processed?

You will be promptly notified that we have received your complaint. Complaints are reviewed by the Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) and OPR may request additional information.  OPR refers the complaint to the chair of the Language Access in the Courts Advisory Committee (advisory committee), who appoints a panel of at least three advisory committee members.  The advisory committee panel may dismiss the complaint if it wholly lacks merit or it does not comply with requirements or is not supplemented as requested.  Summary dismissal is not subject to review.

If the complaint is not dismissed, OPR will direct the court interpreter to file a response within 21 days after the notice of complaint.  A failure to respond can be deemed an admission of the facts alleged.  OPR may ask for a reply from the complainant.  The advisory committee may then dismiss the complaint or assign it for further investigation.  

The advisory committee will then review the matter on the papers filed unless the court interpreter requests a hearing or the committee believes one is necessary.  If a hearing is necessary, it will be scheduled to occur within 60 days after the complaint is assigned to the advisory committee.  The hearing will be held in the county where the interpreter resides or the conduct occurred, unless the OPR and the interpreter agree otherwise.  The hearing will be electronically recorded unless the interpreter requests a court reporter and pays the reporter’s fee and any transcript costs, if necessary.  Within 60 days, the committee will file its written decision, and OPR serves a copy on the interpreter.  

The advisory committee may dismiss the complaint, impose a private admonition, enter into stipulated discipline, impose a public reprimand, require the interpreter to refund fees, require specified continuing education, suspend or revoke roster or certified status, or suspend or bar the interpreter from interpreting in legal proceedings or court-ordered programs.

The interpreter may file a petition for review with the Iowa Supreme Court Clerk’s Office within 30 days after the decision is served and pay a $150 filing fee.  The interpreter must serve a copy of the petition on OPR and any attorneys.  The petition will be submitted to the supreme court on the record previously made unless the court orders otherwise.  The court’s decision is conclusive.  Costs will be assessed against the interpreter for any public admonition, public sanction, or agreed disposition imposing costs.  The interpreter may seek reinstatement.

For additional information on how complaints against court interpreters are processed, see Iowa Court Rules section 47.10 

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of Professional Regulation at court.interpreter@iowacourts.gov

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