Using interpreters in court

Learn more about requesting an interpreter and eligible proceedings, as well as cancellations and complaints.

Designated Court Liaisons or court clerks will indicate a need for interpreter services via MassCourts, the Trial Court's case management system. It is presently in operation at most divisions of the District Court, Boston Municipal Court, the Superior Court, and Juvenile Court Departments. In all other situations a Request for Interpreter form must be prepared by the requesting court and signed by the Court Liaison each time a court-appointed interpreter is requested, including an ASL interpreter. Such requests will be emailed to the OCIS at:

In emergency situations where written requests are not possible, the Office of Court Interpreter Services may provide court interpreters and will be responsible for compensating court interpreters for providing services. Requests for an American Sign Language (ASL) court interpreter shall be immediately forwarded to the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing by the OCIS. Please see Sections 8.01 and 8.02 of the Standards and Procedures for additional information regarding requesting and assignment of interpreters.

Proceedings eligible for interpreter services

The OCIS will schedule and provide court interpreters, upon receipt of a request pursuant to section 8.02 of the Standards & Procedures of the Office of Court Interpreter Services, to appear at any and all criminal or civil judicial proceedings, including the institution of such proceedings (e.g., the filing of a complaint and affidavit seeking a restraining order pursuant to G.L. c.209A or other similar proceedings). The OCIS will not provide or compensate court interpreters for witness interviews, depositions, or other interpretation outside of a court facility provided, however, that OCIS will provide and compensate court interpreters for investigations and evaluations ordered by the court and either required by statute or by the court for trial and/or disposition of a pending matter.

To request an interpreter or review OCIS Standards & Procedures, see Additional Resources below.

Additional Resources for Proceedings eligible for interpreter services

Interpreter Daily Service Record

When a time stamp is available, the interpreter’s Daily Service Record (DSR) must be stamped upon arrival. If a time stamp is unavailable, the Court Liaison should hand write and initial the per diem court interpreter's arrival time in the space provided on the DSR. Space is also provided for signing the interpreter in and out of the morning session and for signing the interpreter in and out of the afternoon session. Please see Section 10.00 of the Standards and Procedures for additional information regarding signing per diem interpreters in and out of court.

Working with interpreters over the phone

To work with an interpreter over the phone, follow these steps:

  • Brief the interpreter to provide context 
  • Speak directly to the limited English proficient (LEP) individual 
  • Speak naturally, not louder
  • Speak clearly at a normal pace 
  • Pause after 1 or 2 sentences. 
  • Ask 1 question at a time 
  • Refrain from using technical language and acronyms 
  • Address any clarifications 
  • Ask if the LEP understands
  • Close the call

Canceling interpreter services

To cancel or reschedule a request for interpreter, either indicate the appropriate changes in MassCourts or fill out and email the Service Request Cancellation form at least 48 hours in advance of any cancellation or rescheduling of a case requiring the previously scheduled assignment of a court interpreter, or as soon as possible. To request an interpreter for the new date, either submit the request via MassCourts or email in a new Request for Interpreter form.

To download these forms, see Additional Resources below.

Additional Resources for Canceling interpreter services

Filing a complaint against an interpreter

Courts can complain about interpreters using the Interpreter Complaint Form. Please inform the Office of Court Interpreter Services of any violations of the Code of Conduct for Court Interpreters of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Code outlines the duties and responsibilities of court interpreters, and establishes rules for ethical behavior for professional court interpreters. You may contact the Office of Court Interpreter Services at languageaccess@jud.state.ma.us if you require more information, or wish to discuss a particular problem.

To download these forms, see Additional Resources below.

Additional Resources for Filing a complaint against an interpreter

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