The answer is: Yes.
Every translated document filed in court must be certified. The failure to use a certified translation could jeopardize the admissibility of the document for use in evidence.
The protocols pertaining to certifications are substantially the same in federal and state court.
Federal law requires courtroom interpreters to be “certified” (see, “Court Interpreter’s Act,” 28 U.S.C. section 1827). But, there is no rule that requires a translator of written documents to have any type of certification or level of qualification. Rather, section 2N of the “Civil Filing Requirements,” issued by the Clerk of the United States District Court of Southern Florida on March 12, 2014, merely states that “documents not written in English must be accompanied by a translation, unless a waiver has been granted by the Court.”
Certification of written documents, however, has arisen as a matter of custom and good practice in the litigation translation industry. This is because judges require that a translation by accompanied by a certification as a condition to providing relief. Last year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit refused to reverse an immigration appeals judge who ordered a person to be deported because the affidavit she submitted was “unaccompanied by a certificate of translation.” See Villalobos v. U.S. Atty. Gen., 479 F. App’x 966, 967 (11th Cir. 2012).
What does it mean to be a certified translation?
For a translation of a written document to be certified, it must contain a sworn, notarized statement attesting to the completeness and accuracy of the translation.
Best practices in the industry require using only translators who have been certified by the American Translators Association and, preferably, who are native speakers and writers of target language’s country, region and dialect and who have experience in the underlying subject matter of the translation. Translations that are so certified are referred to as “certified translations” or translations with “certificates of accuracy.”
The Florida state court system does not have any promulgated rule or legal decision requiring certifications of written document translations. There is no official certification program in Florida for translators of written document. However, the Florida Supreme Court has implemented a program that requires interpreters of courtroom and deposition testimony to become certified. The “Court Interpreter Certification and Regulation Program” applies to the following languages: Arabic, Cantonese, French, Haitian Creole, Hmong, Ilocano, Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
Law firms should seek a translation service that follows the industry’s best practices. Partnering with a translation firm that provides notarized ATA certifications for all written translations will help ensure a problem-free legal review process. A translator certified by the OSCA court interpreter program will also add a level of integrity to any certification.
By Diana Marcela Arbelaez