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Court Interpreter Information

Court Interpreters

The Santa Barbara County Superior Court has Spanish-speaking staff at most Clerk's Offices. In the event no bilingual staff is available, the Court provides an over-the-phone interpreter using the services of an outside telephonic language interpretation provider.

The Court assigns Spanish qualified court interpreters at no cost in the following court proceedings:

  • criminal,
  • juvenile delinquency,
  • juvenile dependency,
  • mental health (psych evaluations and mental competency hearings),
  • family law,
  • civil harassment,
  • unlawful detainer (eviction),
  • traffic,
  • small claims, and
  • other limited civil cases.

Should litigants, defendants or witnesses need the services of a Spanish interpreter, one from the court staff may be requested at the time of the hearing.

For court users with family law, small claims, probate, civil harassment, unlawful detainer, and other limited civil cases who speak a language other than Spanish, an interpreter may be requested using form INT-300 "Request for Interpreter" (Civil), which must be e-filed (except for self-represented court users) at the Clerk's Office at least 48 hours before the scheduled hearing. Once received, the Clerk's Office will send notice to the Court Interpreter Coordinator, who, if possible, will book the services of a qualified court interpreter for the date and time specified in the Request for Interpreter.

When parties in civil matters are being represented by an attorney, the attorney of record shall e-file form INT-300 and, in the event the party will not be present at any hearing for which an interpreter was requested, shall give the Court a 72-hour notice.

The Court will try to provide an interpreter in every language and in every civil case. The Court will provide petitioners/attorneys with a response to let them know whether their request is granted. There may be times when the Court cannot provide an interpreter in every case.

Sign language Interpreters are also provided at no cost for parties or witnesses who are present and participate in a court proceeding. To request an ASL interpreter in a small claims, unlawful detainer, family law, civil harassment, or traffic court proceeding, court users must file the Judicial Council form MC-410, located under the Court's "American with Disabilities Act" webpage.

For additional information on Interpreters, please visit the following links:

    More on Court Interpreters.

    The Complaint Process

    If you have a complaint about local access to language services, you may submit a complaint using this fillable form. The Court provides versions of the form in Spanish.

    The Language Access Coordinator will review and respond to all interpreter and language access complaints. The Court takes all complaints about language access very seriously and will address the concerns in an appropriate manner. Please be aware that the Language Access Services Division does not have the authority to change or modify any decision made by a judicial officer and that its review of the complaint does not, in any way, affect or extend any applicable deadlines or procedural requirements such as filing motions, appeals, modifications, etc.

    You may file a complaint with the Judicial Council of California regarding a specific California court interpreter if you believe a certified or registered interpreter:

    • Violated Rule of Court 2.890, Professional conduct for interpreters
    • Is unable to interpret competently in English and/or in the language being interpreted
    • Committed acts of wrongdoing or behaved unethically

    To file a complaint directly with the Judicial Council regarding a specific court interpreter, please visit the link below.

    El Tribunal Superior del Condado de Santa Barbara tiene personal que habla español en la mayoría de las oficinas administrativas del Tribunal. En caso de que no haya personal bilingüe en algún momento, el Tribunal recurre a los servicios de interpretación telefónica que brinda un proveedor externo.

    El Tribunal asigna intérpretes judiciales acreditados de español sin costo alguno en las siguientes diligencias:

    • Penal
    • Dependencia de menores
    • Menores delincuentes
    • Salud mental (evaluaciones psicológicas y audiencias para determinar capacidad mental)
    • Derecho de Familia
    • Acoso
    • Desalojo
    • Infracciones de tránsito
    • Demandas de menor cuantía
    • Otros casos en materia civil (cantidad limitada)

    En caso de que litigantes, acusados o testigos necesiten los servicios de un intérprete, estos pueden pedir dichos servicios dentro de la sala judicial antes de la audiencia.

    Las personas que comparezcan a diligencias relacionadas con derecho de familia, demandas de menor cuantía, sucesiones testamentarias, acoso y otros casos en materia civil de cantidad limitada y hablan un idioma diferente al español, deben solicitar los servicios de un intérprete usando el formulario INT-300, el cual debe presentarse en la Oficina Administrativa del Tribunal con una anticipación de por lo menos 48 horas previas a la diligencia.

    El Tribunal intentará, por todos los medios, conseguir los servicios de un intérprete de cualquier idioma para todos los casos en materia civil, pero algunas veces será imposible hacerlo. En ese caso, el Tribunal le notificará oportunamente.

    Si tiene una queja acerca del acceso a servicios lingüísticos, puede presentarla usando esta planilla a rellenar.  El Tribunal dispone versiones de esta planilla en español.

    La Coordinadora del Acceso Lingüístico revisará y responderá ante todas las quejas respecto de los intérpretes y el acceso lingüístico.  El Tribunal toma muy seriamente todas las quejas relativas al acceso lingüístico y abordará las inquietudes de manera apropiada. Sépase por favor que la División de los Servicios de Acceso Lingüístico no cuenta con la autoridad para cambiar o modificar decisión alguna tomada por un funcionario judicial y, que la revisión que haga de la queja, de ninguna manera, para nada afectará o prolongará procedentes fechas límites algunas o cualesquiera requisitos procedimentales tales como la promoción de pedimentos, recursos, modificaciones, etcétera.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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

    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. We encourage you to contact the schools and request information about their programs. For the other languages, the following self-study techniques are suggested: (1) expand your vocabulary, (2) develop your own glossaries, and (3) develop interpreting techniques. Suggested skills-enhancing exercises are available to help you develop three interpreting techniques: (1) consecutive interpretation, (2) simultaneous interpretation, and (3) sight translation.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

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

    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) (see

    There is a great demand for certified court interpreters in areas with large immigrant populations. Most court interpreters work as freelance or per diem interpreters, meaning that they are hired by the day or the half day, rather than being permanent employees of the trial courts. Some trial courts, however, have permanent positions for court interpreters. A freelance interpreter must be willing to travel from one trial court to another, perhaps even from one county trial court system to another, to be assured of full-time work. Court interpreters are generally paid by the whole or half day.

    Please direct further questions to our toll-free number (866) 310-0689, or send an email to or visit our website at:

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