December 5, 2019
Interpreter Services

The San Mateo Superior Court provides multilingual interpreting and general language services to individuals with limited English proficiency to ensure meaningful participation in the judicial court process. Interpreters are provided at no cost in all Criminal, Juvenile and Traffic hearings. Beginning April 11, 2016, the Court will expand the case types that qualify for interpreter services (in accordance with AB 1657). The Court will now provide interpreter services for:

  • Proceedings where a protective order is sought in family law domestic violence cases, elder or dependent adult physical abuse and neglect cases, or civil harassment cases
  • Actions and proceedings relating to unlawful detainer
  • Actions and proceedings to terminate parental rights
  • Actions and proceedings relating to conservatorship or guardianship, including the appointment or termination of a probate guardian or conservator
You may ask the clerk at the counter or the clerk in the courtroom for an interpreter. If an interpreter is not available at the time of your hearing, your case may be continued until an interpreter can be assigned.

Tips for using an interpreter

Below are some helpful tips when using an interpreter:

  • Listen carefully to the interpreter.
  • Wait for the interpreter to finish talking before you answer.
  • Speak slowly in your native language so the interpreter can hear everything you say.
  • Direct your response to the person asking the questions.
  • Do not interrupt, even if someone in court says something bad about you. You will get a chance to speak.

What is the court interpreter's job?

A court interpreter is a person who interprets orally from English to another language and vice versa in a court hearing. Interpreters at times provide an oral interpretation of written documents. Court interpreters do not interpret or translate outside of legal proceedings. If you need an interpreter outside of the legal proceedings, you may hire one.

The interpreter's job is to give a complete and accurate interpretation or translation, without changing, omitting, or adding anything to what is said or written. In essence, the interpreter serves as a two-way bridge between those who speak English and those who do not. It is not the interpreter's job to explain what is being said. It is not the interpreter's job to give advice, counsel, complete forms or to provide services other than interpreting from one language to another.

Will a person's conversation with his or her lawyer still be confidential?

Yes. Court Interpreters obey the Interpreter's Oath and the Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibilities. Court Interpreters may not disclose information pertaining to the interpreted session nor its participants.

Will the Court Interpreter explain the proceedings?

No. Court Interpreters do not explain, paraphrase, or give legal advice. A Court Interpreter interprets what is said and does not add or omit anything.

What if the Court doesn't provide an interpreter for my hearing type?

You may hire an independent contractor for your hearing if the Court does not provide you one. To locate an interpreter that speaks your language, check on the State Court Judicial Council (JCC) website. On the left side of the JCC's Interpreter home page are some links - you will want to click on the link that says "Search for an interpreter" which will take you to a web page with links to several lists of interpreters, as well as a searchable directory of interpreters who are in good standing with the Judicial Council.

Language Access Complaint Process

If you believe you have not been provided with reasonable or professional language access, please complete the Language Access Complaint Form - IN006 and submit it to any clerk at a public counter, via email or by mail to the Interpreter Services Division at the address listed below. The Court will respond within 30 days upon receipt of your complaint.

Please note that if your complaint does not fall within Interpreter Services jurisdiction, it will be forwarded to the appropriate department/agency for investigation.

Court Interpreters Division
Hall of Justice
400 County Center, 2nd Floor
Redwood City, CA 94063

Email Address:

© 2019 Superior Court of San Mateo County