THE PENNSYLVANIA COURT AND ADMINISTRATIVE
PROCEEDING INTERPRETER LAW
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who may request an interpreter under the law?
Any person may request an interpreter if that person:
- has either limited English proficiency or is deaf or hard of hearing;
- is either a party or a witness in a judicial or administrative proceeding, and;
- would be unable to understand and participate in the proceeding without an interpreter.
- What does limited English proficiency mean?
A person with limited English proficiency is a person who exclusively or primarily speaks a language other than English and has an inability to sufficiently speak or understand English.
- What does deaf or hard of hearing mean?
This means an impairment of hearing or speech which creates an inability to understand or communicate in spoken English language.
- How do I find an interpreter?
The Presiding Officer of any administrative proceeding will appoint a certified interpreter or an otherwise qualified interpreter. A list of certified and registered interpreters can be found on the AOPC Interpreter Certification Program’s website at http://www.pacourts.us/T/AOPC/CourtInterpreterProg/. A request for an interpreter shall be made to the assigned Presiding Officer of the administrative proceeding at the earliest opportunity.
- What if the Presiding Officer cannot find a certified interpreter?
The Presiding Officer may appoint an otherwise qualified interpreter in the event that a certified interpreter is unavailable. Before appointing an otherwise qualified interpreter, however, the Presiding Officer shall conduct a brief questioning on the record to determine if the otherwise qualified interpreter is readily able to interpret and has read, understands, and agrees to abide by the interpreter’s code of conduct.
- May I bring my own interpreter to an administrative proceeding before a Presiding Officer?
Nothing in Act 172 expressly prohibits persons appearing before a Presiding Officer at an administrative proceeding from bringing their own interpreter. However, if the interpreter is not certified by AOPC as described in FAQ 4, he or she may only be appointed by the Presiding Officer if no certified interpreters are available, and the interpreter is then qualified by the Presiding Officer using the process described in FAQ 5. Moreover, Canon 3 of the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Interpreters requires interpreters to be impartial and unbiased. Consequently, the opposing side may successfully object to the use of a privately retained interpreter.
It is also possible that the opposing party will not object or will agree to a privately retained interpreter who is neither certified or otherwise qualified. Nothing in Act 172 expressly prohibits this person providing interpreter services in that circumstance, although he or she may not be eligible for reimbursement because they are not appointed as either a certified or qualified interpreter.
- What are the fees associated with a Certified interpreter?
An interpreter will be reimbursed for actual and reasonable expenses by the agency conducting the administrative proceeding.
- What if I believe that my interpreter has done something unethical?
An interpreter must comply with the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Interpreters. If you believe that an interpreter has violated either the oath or the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Interpreters, please submit a letter or email describing the particulars of the violation to the contact person.
- Is the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Interpreters the same as other professionally recognized codes of conduct governing interpreters?
The Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Interpreters is based on a model created by the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification, but is unique to Pennsylvania. There are other recognized codes of conduct, such as the RID Code of Ethics for Sign Language Interpreters which ASL interpreters must also observe. Foreign language interpreters interpreting at administrative proceedings in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are bound by the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Interpreters, while ASL interpreters are bound by both codes.
- How does an interpreter become certified under this law?
The Department of Labor & Industry has adopted the AOPC’s registration and certification process for interpreters at administrative hearings. Registration and certification information can be obtained from AOPC’s website at http://www.pacourts.us/T/AOPC/CourtInterpreterProg/. Any interpreter who is certified by the AOPC is also automatically certified for administrative proceedings.