The Montgomery County Commissioners Court on May 9 moved to discuss hiring a full-time court interpreter following months of discussion and contention over pay rates after payments were submitted for $650 for 20 minutes of billed work.

The backstory: After having issues with hiring court interpreters for trial cases, Montgomery County agreed to increase the pay from $65 per hour to $650 per day in December 2022. Wendy Little, the county’s director of the office of court administration, said the pay change was necessary to bring interpreters from Harris County into Montgomery County for jury trials.

The details: Court interpreters are paid a flat daily fee for work in the courts. Interpreters are guaranteed this fee regardless of the hours they work in Montgomery County courts, or if a trial is rescheduled or canceled.
  • Nonjury trials: $220
  • Jury trials: $650
What they’re saying:
  • “There are plenty of other examples in here where we pay people for minutes of work and it’s $220. I understand that maybe the order from the judge and the court and [Commissioners] Court may have adopted it, but I don't have to vote to pay it,” Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said.
  • “The problem is it’s the nature of litigation. You know, we picked a jury on Monday of last week and then found out some evidence hadn’t been turned over until the judge sent the jury home. The interpreter stood there the whole time. Then the interpreter had to leave,” District Attorney Brett Ligon said.
  • Little said the county has an open position for a full-time interpreter on staff, but the set salary is less than what interpreters can make on a contract basis.
What’s next: Noack requested Little and any other participating agencies work together on bringing changes to the next court session to prevent issues of interpreters working less than an hour and collecting the full daily rate.