The District of Columbia Courts are committed to ensuring access to justice for individuals with limited English proficiency and individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
The Office of Court Interpreting Services (OCIS) provides professional interpreting services at no cost to assist persons having business with the District of Columbia Courts who have limited English proficiency or who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
The OCIS maintains the DC Courts Interpreter Registry. All listed interpreters are either Certified or Qualified. Certified interpreters have passed an oral interpreter certification examination which tests their language and interpreting skills in 3 modes: Sight Translation, Consecutive Interpretation, and Simultaneous Interpretation.
All Spanish-language and American Sign Language interpreters engaged by the Court are certified. For other foreign languages, the OCIS may utilize interpreters who, at minimum, pass a written examination in English and an Oral Proficiency Interview in English and the foreign language.
The OCIS conducts training workshops, testing, and continuing education classes for court interpreters.
Please note that OCIS does not schedule real-time captioning, or CART, services; instead, to arrange for those services, please see the contact information for Darlene Ellis at the bottom of the page.
Working with Court Interpreters
Court interpreters are experts in language and trained to render linguistically equivalent interpretation from one language into another. Court interpreters work solely for the Court; they are not parties to a case, they do not have any interest in the outcome of the case and they remain neutral in all matters.
|Guidelines and Best Practices When Working with Court Interpreter||Download|
|Language Access Plan||Download|
If you are a court user, party or attorney in a case appearing in the DC Superior Court:
Please contact OCIS as far in advance as possible, preferably two weeks before the hearing that you wish to have the interpreter attend. It is important that OCIS receive advance notice as the number of available interpreters is limited.
Your request should include as much pertinent information as possible. This should include the language, the case number, the case name, the number of parties involved, and your best estimate as to the length of the proceeding. Requests are submitted through email.
If you are a private attorney, CJA/CCAN attorney or a private party seeking a courtesy interpreter referral:
Please see below the courtesy roster of Spanish interpreters and translators in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Please contact the interpreter directly to inquire about availability, rates and qualifications.
CJA/CCAN attorneys – as a further courtesy, the roster also identifies interpreters that are already on the CJA web voucher expert list.
For all other languages, please contact the OCIS at interpreters [at] dcsc.gov for courtesy referrals.
|Interpreters and Translators - DC Metro Area Roster||Download|
Language access for non-English speakers is an important priority at the D.C. Courts. For this reason, the D.C. Courts appreciate your time in providing feedback on what we are doing well and about any problems or difficulties you may have encountered while working with an interpreter or trying to access court services in your language.
DC Courts Information Brochure Translations:
|Information Brochure: Amharic||Download|
|Information Brochure: Arabic||Download|
|Information Brochure: Chinese||Download|
|Information Brochure: English||Download|
|Information Brochure: French||Download|
|Information Brochure: Korean||Download|
|Information Brochure: Spanish||Download|
|Information Brochure: Swahili||Download|
|Information Brochure: Vietnamese||Download|
Thank you for your interest in becoming an interpreter at the District of Columbia Courts. The Courts have established an Interpreter Registry comprised of certified and qualified freelance court interpreters for contract on an as-needed basis.
- See this page for the requirements and steps you’ll need to follow to be added as a certified interpreter on the DC Courts Interpreter Registry.
- For languages in which a court interpreter examination does not exist, interpreters who wish to work at the DC Courts may be registered as a qualified interpreter on the DC Courts Interpreter Registry. See this page for the requirements and steps that apply to qualified interpreters.
- All interpreters must complete an Orientation Workshop for Interpreters in the District of Columbia Courts. This workshop consists of a presentation that covers the DC Courts’ Interpreter Code of Ethics and rules of professional conduct. See this page for more information and to access the presentation.
- See this page for continuing education requirements and additional resources.
When hiring freelance interpreters, if possible, OCIS gives priority to certified freelance interpreters. In addition, interpreters who demonstrate the highest levels of professionalism, consistently arriving on time for their assignments in professional attire while strictly abiding by the D.C. Courts’ Interpreter Code of Ethics and Rules of Professional Conduct, will also be given priority.
OCIS hires freelance interpreters on an as-needed basis. In the case of Spanish and American Sign Language interpreters, OCIS hires ONLY certified freelance interpreters. No interpreters may appear on the Registry as qualified interpreters in Spanish. Therefore, OCIS does not offer or accept Oral Proficiency Interview testing in Spanish.
OCIS makes every effort to tailor Orientation Workshop requirements according to the individual needs of each freelance interpreter.
To cover an immediate need of the court, exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis.
Changing Status on the Registry
In languages for which a certification exam does not exist, interpreters will be registered as qualified until such time as a certification exam is developed and the interpreter passes the exam.
If a qualified interpreter passes an interpretation exam administered by the RID, AOUSC, another state court system, or the Department of State (Conference Level), the interpreter’s status on the DC Courts Interpreter Registry will be changed to certified.
The Office of Court Interpreting Services of the D.C. Courts is offering the nation’s first Amharic court interpreter certification exam to certify Amharic interpreters.
To be eligible to take the Amharic court interpreter certification exam, candidates are first required to complete the following steps, in order:
- Pass the National Center for State Courts written English court interpreter exam, which is offered by the D.C. Courts and other surrounding jurisdictions. The written examination covers a) comprehension of written English vocabulary and idioms, b) common court-related situations and vocabulary and c) knowledge of ethical behavior and professional conduct.
- Pass an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) in English and/or Amharic. Candidates will be permitted to take the OPI in English and/or Amharic only if they pass the written exam. The OPI measures how well the candidate speaks English and/or Amharic, not interpreting ability. It is a one-on-one telephonic conversation with an interviewer conducted in English and/or Amharic.
To pass the Amharic court interpreter certification exam, interpreters must possess a mastery of English and Amharic equivalent to a highly educated native speaker, and have a thorough understanding of legal concepts in both languages. Interpreters must also be able to convey messages accurately, completely, and promptly.
The exam tests for the three modes of interpretation most commonly used in court: Sight Translation, Consecutive Interpretation, and Simultaneous Interpretation.
Sight translation: The candidate is asked to read a document written in English, while interpreting it aloud into Amharic, and to read a document written in Amharic, while interpreting it aloud in English. Each document is approximately 225 words in length. The candidate is given 6 minutes per document to review the content and perform the sight translation while being recorded. This is a timed exercise. Total time allotted: 12 minutes (6 min. per document). Time for instructions is not counted as part of the 12 minutes.
Consecutive Interpretation: The candidate listens to a recording of an English-speaking attorney who is questioning an Amharic-speaking witness. The candidate must interpret aloud the English questions into Amharic and the witness’s answers from Amharic into English while being recorded. The questions and answers are of various lengths ranging from one word to a maximum of 50 words. A candidate may request a maximum of two (2) repetitions during this portion of the exam. This is a timed exercise. Total time allotted: 22 minutes, including repetitions, from the time the recording begins.
Simultaneous Interpretation: The candidate listens to a recording in English of an attorney’s opening statement or closing argument to a jury or judge. This passage is recorded at a speed of 120 words per minute and is approximately 900 words in length. The speech continues for about 7 to 10 minutes without stopping. While listening through headphones, the candidate simultaneously interprets aloud all statements into Amharic while being recorded. This segment takes about 12 minutes all together, including instructions and equipment preparation.
The Amharic court interpreter certification exam will be offered annually. The inaugural exam administration is scheduled for the week of June 28, 2021.
To learn more about the Amharic court interpreter certification exam and eligibility requirements, please email interpreters [at] dcsc.gov. Please note that space is limited and priority given to candidates who meet registration deadlines.