Rule 28. Interpreters

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The court may select, appoint, and set the reasonable compensation for an interpreter. The compensation must be paid from funds provided by law or by the government, as the court may direct.


(As amended Feb. 28, 1966, eff. July 1, 1966; Nov. 20, 1972, eff. July 1, 1975; Apr. 29, 2002, eff. Dec. 1, 2002.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1944

The power of the court to call its own witnesses, though rarely invoked, is recognized in the Federal courts, Young v. United States, 107 F.2d 490 (C.C.A. 5th); Litsinger v. United States, 44 F.2d 45 (C.C.A. 7th). This rule provides a procedure whereby the court may, if it chooses, exercise this power in connection with expert witnesses. The rule is based, in part, on the Uniform Expert Testimony Act, drafted by the Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, Hand Book of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (1937), 337; see, also, Wigmore— Evidence, 3d Ed., sec. 563; A.L.I. Code of Criminal Procedure, secs. 307–309; National Commission on Law of Observance and Enforcement— Report on Criminal Procedure, 37. Similar provisions are found in the statutes of a number of States: Wisconsin— Wis.Stat. (1941), sec. 357.12; Indiana—Ind.Stat.Ann. (Burns, 1933), sec. 9–1702; California—Cal.Pen.Code (Deering, 1941), sec. 1027.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1966 Amendment

Subdivision (a).—The original rule is made a separate subdivision. The amendment permits the court to inform the witness of his duties in writing since it often constitutes an unnecessary inconvenience and expense to require the witness to appear in court for such purpose.

Subdivision (b).—This new subdivision authorizes the court to appoint and provide for the compensation of interpreters. General language is used to give discretion to the court to appoint interpreters in all appropriate situations. Interpreters may be needed to interpret the testimony of non-English speaking witnesses or to assist non-English speaking defendants in understanding the proceedings or in communicating with assigned counsel. Interpreters may also be needed where a witness or a defendant is deaf.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1972 Amendment

Subdivision (a). This subdivision is stricken, since the subject of court-appointed expert witnesses is covered in Evidence Rule 706 in detail.

Subdivision (b). The provisions of subdivision (b) are retained. Although Evidence Rule 703 specifies the qualifications of interpreters and the form of oath to be administered to them, it does not cover their appointment or compensation.

Committee Notes on Rules—2002 Amendment

The language of Rule 28 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Criminal Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only.

Effective Date of Amendment Proposed November 20, 1972

Amendment of this rule embraced by the order entered by the Supreme Court of the United States on November 20, 1972, effective on the 180th day beginning after January 2, 1975, see section 3 of Pub. L. 93–595, Jan. 2, 1975, 88 Stat. 1959, set out as a note under section 2074 of Title 28, Judiciary and Judicial Procedure.