Find a legal translator or an interpreter - France
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In this section you will find information about how to find an interpreter for court proceedings, or a translator, where necessary, via an official website.
How to find a translator in France
The documentation and analysis service at the Court of Cassation publishes the following on its Internet site:
- A PDF list of experts certified by the Court of Cassation. There are also links to the Internet sites of some courts of appeal. The list of experts certified by the Court of Cassation is drawn up annually by the management panel (bureau) of the Court.
- Lists of court experts drawn up by the courts of appeal, including experts listed under the headings of translation and interpretation. The lists of court experts drafted by the courts of appeal are updated by the courts of appeal and sent to the Court of Cassation at varying intervals.
The Court of Cassation does not, strictly speaking, have a database listing all interpreters and translators.
Lists giving experts’ names, contact details, dates of birth and specialities are available for 35 courts of appeal.
Do you have to pay to search for a translator or interpreter?
No, access to the websites is unrestricted.
Directories of court translators in France
The first official lists of experts advising the French courts were introduced for criminal cases by an Act of 30 November 1892.
There were also unofficial lists of people with technical knowledge who were most often designated in civil cases.
Act (loi) No 71-498 of 29 June 1971 and Order (décret) No 74-1184 of 31 December 1974 introduced a single list for each of the courts of appeal in the ordinary court system, for both civil and criminal cases, with experts being listed by speciality. The list was to be updated and amended each year. Registration was renewable on a yearly basis, but in practice it has been carried over for experts who have not incurred any serious criticism. A national list of experts was also introduced, which is drawn up by the management panel of the Court of Cassation and run along similar lines.
Registration on the lists of court experts was thoroughly reformed by Act No 2004-130 of 11 February 2004 and Order No 2004-1463 of 23 December 2004. Applications for registration on the lists of the courts of appeal have to be submitted to the State Counsel (procureur de la République) at the regional court (tribunal de grande instance), who examines them and then refers them to the Principal State Counsel (procureur général), who submits them to the first president of the court of appeal.
These lists are finalised annually by the general meeting of adjudicating judges (assemblée générale des magistrats du siège) at the court of appeal.
Initial registration on the lists of the courts of appeal is for a probationary period of three years, at the end of which an assessment is made of the person’s experience and whether they have the legal knowledge they need to carry out their tasks properly, with a view to a fresh application and fresh registration. The applicant’s file is reconsidered, and an opinion is given by a committee of experts and judges, after which the expert may be re‑registered for a period of five years.
Order No 2012-1451 of 24 December 2012 clarified the criteria for registration. Applications are to be considered in the light of the qualifications and professional experience of the applicant, which may have been acquired in an EU Member State other than France, and of the interest shown by the applicant in working with the justice system. Account may also be taken of the particular needs of the court.
Experts must have been registered on a court of appeal list for three years before they can be transferred to the national list. Applications for registration or re-registration on the national list are submitted to the Principal State Counsel at the Court of Cassation, who consults the first president and the Principal State Counsel at the court of appeal where the applicant is registered. The management panel (bureau) of the Court of Cassation then finalises the national list; the Principal State Counsel’s Office does not intervene.
The headings in the lists of experts
An order (arrêté) of the Minister for Justice of 10 June 2005 establishes a harmonised nomenclature for the headings in lists of court experts throughout the country. The list is divided into branches (branches, which are economic sectors such as agriculture, health or industry), headings (rubriques, for professional disciplines such as medicine or surgery), and specialities (spécialités, refining the professional disciplines, such as allergology, digestive surgery, etc.). One of the branches is ‘Interpreting and translation’ (Interprétariat - traduction), which has a heading for translation that is subdivided into specialities by groups of languages (Romance languages, Germanic languages, Slavonic languages, etc). The specialities are defined widely enough to include any spoken or written language.
For this new harmonised nomenclature of expert specialities, therefore, translators and interpreters have been kept on the general lists of court experts, while having their own specific heading. Translators and interpreters do not have it as their main task to give expert opinions in the strict sense, but like other court experts they do assist the courts on an occasional basis, and where necessary they may be designated as technical specialists to take part in the inquiry itself, under Article 232 of the new Code of Civil Procedure, for example by providing a professional opinion.
For these reasons, it was not considered necessary, at the time of the 2004 reform, to make separate arrangements for interpreters and translators and to register them on separate lists.
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Last update: 16/09/2013