US Supreme Court Holds that Cost of Translating Foreign Documents Does Not Fall Within the Scope of 28 U. S. C. 1920(6)

07.10.12 | Permalink

On May 21, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion in Taniguchi v. Kan Pacific Saipan, Ltd., which concerned whether the cost of translating foreign documents is a taxable cost under 28 U. S. C. § 1920(6). In that case, the plaintiff, a professional Japanese baseball player, alleged he sustained personal injuries when his leg broke through a wooden deck on the defendant’s resort property. He sought damages for lost income from contracts he could not honor as a result of the injuries. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff offered no evidence that the defendant had notice of a defect in the wooden deck or otherwise failed to exercise reasonable care. The trial court also awarded the defendant costs, which included the cost of translating Japanese documents into English. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgment and the costs awarded to the defendant.

The question before the Court was whether the phrase “compensation of interpreters” extends to translation of documents. Under § 1920(6), the “cost of interpreters,” among other items, may be recovered as a taxable cost by a prevailing party. The Court held that the term “interpreter” as used in the statute does not include the cost of translating foreign documents. In so holding, it reasoned that the “the ordinary and technical meanings of [the term] ‘interpreter,’ as well as the statutory context in which the word is found, lead to the conclusion that § 1920(6), does not apply to translators of written materials.”

To see the full Opinion, click here.

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