Language Interpreter Services
Language assistance is available at all court locations. Contact the clerk of court at the court location nearest you for language assistance.
Administrative Rule 6 (as amended by SCO 1896, effective October 15, 2016)
- Will I have an interpreter if I don’t speak English well or at all?
- Who will my court interpreter be?
- Should I bring my own interpreter to interpret for me in the courtroom?
- Who pays for the court interpreter?
- What will the court interpreter do?
- What is the court interpreter unable to do?
- What kind of interpreting will the interpreter do?
- What if I don’t understand something?
- What if I don’t understand the court interpreter?
- What kind of equipment is used?
- What if I don’t want to use an interpreter?
- What if both sides in the case need an interpreter?
Free language interpreters are available:
- for individuals who do not speak or understand English who have court cases,
- witnesses providing information in court cases, or
- victims of crime in court cases.
Let the court know you need an interpreter by:
- contacting the clerk of court at the court location nearest you, or
- fill out Notice of Need for Interpreter, TF-985.
The court’s statewide interpreter coordinator will assign an interpreter from its directory of qualified court interpreters. The interpreter will interpret over the telephone, by video or in person depending on the specifics of the case and the availability of a court-qualified interpreter.
No. The court assigns the interpreter who is qualified to interpret for court proceedings so there is no need to bring your own interpreter. The court interpreter will interpret what is said on the record during the hearing or trial. If you are unable to understand the court interpreter, let the judge know and another interpreter will be scheduled for you. If you have a lawyer representing you, your lawyer may choose to bring another interpreter to communicate between you and the lawyer.
The Alaska Court System provides and pays for the interpreter during court hearings and trials for all parties, witnesses, and victims with limited English proficiency.
Before a court hearing, the interpreter will speak with you in your language to be sure you can understand each other.
In the courtroom, the court interpreter will:
- help you to communicate with individuals in the courtroom, including your lawyer, the judge and court staff;
- interpret everything you say into English;
- interpret everything said by others in English into your language; and
- interpret everything that is said during the hearing or trial, without adding, omitting, or changing anything.
The court interpreter is required to follow a Professional Code of Ethics and must follow by rules of confidentiality. The interpreter will not repeat to anyone what you say privately to your lawyer if you have one.
The court interpreter cannot:
- give legal advice or any other advice;
- talk to you about the issues in your case;
- explain what words mean or what is happening in court, or
- have private conversations with you or your family.
Court interpreters use different methods depending on what is going on during the hearing or trial and the structure of the language being interpreted.
In consecutive interpreting, the interpreter waits until the speaker has finished before interpreting the speech into another language. If the person needing the interpreter has to answer questions from the judge or the other side, the interpreter will do consecutive interpreting.
Simultaneous interpreting is when one spoken language is interpreted into another at almost the same time as the English communication. If the person needing the interpreter needs to listen only and does not need to speak, the interpreter will do simultaneous interpreting. The structure of some languages makes it very difficult to simultaneously interpret, so the interpreter may use the consecutive mode instead.
If you have questions, ask your lawyer, the judge, or court staff but do not ask the interpreter. The court interpreter will interpret your questions so that others can answer them.
Tell your lawyer or the judge that you don’t understand the interpreter.
It depends on whether the interpreter is in-person, on the phone, or by video.
If the interpreter is in person, he or she may wear a headset and speak quietly into a microphone that will transmit to headphones that the person needing the interpreter wears to hear the interpretation. Usually the interpreter does not sit right next to the person needing the interpreter but is somewhere nearby in the courtroom. Sometimes the interpreter will use only the microphone to speak and nobody wears a headset.
If the interpreter is on the phone, the person needing the interpreter will hear what is interpreted over the courtroom’s speaker. The person needing the interpreter will speak into a microphone sitting on the table in the courtroom and the interpreter will hear what is said over the phone.
If the interpreter is interpreting by video, the person needing the interpreter will have a laptop sitting on the table in front of them in the courtroom and will see the interpreter on the screen. The person needing the interpreter will wear headphones to hear what the interpreter says on the video and use the microphone on the table to speak which the interpreter will hear.
You may think that your English is good enough to communicate with the court without an interpreter. Sometimes as the hearing continues, the questions or terms may become more complicated than you expected. To avoid delay, the court will consider having an interpreter present in case interpreting services are needed.
Sometimes the judge and those in the courtroom may not be able to understand you if your English is heavily accented. For example, if you are called as a witness and your English cannot be easily understood, the judge may ask you to testify in your non-English language and use an interpreter to provide the English interpretation.
If both sides speak the same language, the court may use the same interpreter for both parties. There is no ethical problem with this because the interpreters are required to follow a code of professional responsibility. This means the interpreter is impartial and does not favor either person’s side in the case. The interpreter keeps any information confidential that is not stated openly in court, so will not tell the other side something learned while interpreting.