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Finding and Appointing Qualified Court Interpreters and Translators

Search Iowa’s Roster of Court Interpreters (PDF) 

Court Rules on Selection and Appointment of Court Interpreters and Translators

According to Iowa Court Rule 47.3 and its subsections, when the court learns that an interpreter will be needed for limited English proficient (LEP) participant in a court proceeding (defined in Rule 47.1), court personnel shall locate and schedule the most qualified interpreter who is reasonably available -- and court personnel shall not delegate this responsibility to an attorney or party in any case.  

  1. Reasonably available interpreter: This is defined in rule 47.1 as one who resides within 150 miles of the location where the interpreter will be needed, although court staff must do a regional or national search for a certified interpreter for all indictable criminal cases and termination of parental rights cases.
  2. Order of priority for appointment of interpreters:  Court Rules 47.3(4)-(5) require court personnel to seek interpreters in the following order of priority:
    1. Class A (certified)
    2. Class B (noncertified, mid-level testing and training qualifications)
    3. Class C (noncertified, basic-level testing and training and qualifications)
    4. Unclassified (noncertified, minimum qualifications)
  3. Languages for which there are “certified” court interpreters:  There are court interpreter certification exams available in only 20 languages. Learn more about this on the National Center for State Courts website (opens in new window). For an up to date list of languages please refer to the "NCSC Oral Exams Ready for Administration" link.

Applications for Appointment of Court Interpreters and Translators  

Attorneys must file an Application for Appointment of a Court Interpreter or Translator. Iowa Court Rule 47.3(2) requires attorneys who need an interpreter for an LEP client or witness during a court proceeding to file an Application for Appointment of a Court Interpreter.

Forms for Attorneys

Application for Appointment of a Court Interpreter in a Civil or Criminal Case (PDF)
Application for Appointment of a Court Interpreter in a Juvenile Case (PDF)
Application for Appointment of a Written Translation of Court-Related Material and Appointment of a Translator (PDF)

Steps for Locating the Most Qualified Court Interpreter to Interpret In-person

Search for court interpreters by accessing the following resources in the order listed below:

  1. Search Iowa’s Roster of Court Interpreters (PDF) 
    The roster lists Class A (certified) interpreters first, followed by Class B (noncertified) and Class C (noncertified) interpreters. Within each classification, interpreters are listed by the non-English language they interpret (e.g., ASL interpreters, Arabic, Bosnian, French, Spanish, and Swahili).
  2. Search rosters of court interpreters in other states
    If you cannot locate an appropriately classified interpreter on Iowa’s roster, you should search the roster or registry of court interpreters in our neighboring states (MN, MO, NE, and WI).  If you cannot find a qualified interpreter on one of their lists, search the rosters in other states. 
  3. Search the directory on the website for the National Association for Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT)
  4. Contact the Iowa International Center for a list of the languages for which they usually have an interpreter. They may also be reached by calling (515) 282-8269, ext. 16.
  5. Check with State Court Administration.  
    If you cannot locate an interpreter using the sources above, email John Goerdt, Deputy State Court Administrator at: john.goerdt@iowacourts.gov  He will send your request out on the list-serve of state court interpreter program managers throughout the U.S. and forward all referrals to you.

Other States' Rosters

Minnesota

Missouri 

Nebraska

Wisconsin 

Arkansas 

California

Colorado 

Kentucky  

Michigan   (Michigan has several certified Arabic interpreters.)

New Jersey (opens in new window)  Click on "Registry of On-Site Interpreting Resources" and scroll down on that page

Oregon

Pennsylvania 

Tennessee

Washington 

Telephone-based Interpreter Service

All clerk of district court offices have access to the two telephone-based interpreter services that have been approved by State Court Administration: Language Line, Inc. – or – CTS Language Link.

These are appropriate resources especially for short hearings (approximately 30 minutes or less).
The fee is usually about $0.85 per minute for most languages (for court proceedings).  Contact your district court administrator for more information, if necessary.

Finding a Certified Translator of Written Documents or of Electronically Recorded Communications

A “translator” is a person who is skilled at translating a written document in one language into a written version of that document in a different language – or – translating electronically recorded communications in one language into a written version of those communications in another language.  

Court rule 47.13(3) requires the courts to use a “certified” translator of written documents, if certification of translators is available for the required languages (e.g., from Spanish to English).  Rule 47.13(2) defines a “certified” translator as a person who has obtained certification in written translation from the American Translators Association (ATA).  A Class A certified oral language interpreter is not a certified translator of written documents unless the certified interpreter has also obtained certification in written translation from the ATA.  Refer to the ATA directory of certified translators

If there is no ATA-certified translator available, the court may appoint a Class A certified court interpreter to do the written translation. See court rule 47.13(3)(c) for other exceptions.

Contact john.goerdt@iowacourts.gov if you need assistance finding a qualified translator of written documents.

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