Several officials had expressed confusion and concern regarding the potential abuse of the current system.
“I don’t want somebody showing up, staying for an hour and getting paid for four hours,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley said at the meeting.
Currently, the Montgomery County Office of Court Administration offers certified court interpreters $55 an hour for nonjury trials and $65 an hour for jury trials. To be competitive with Harris County and ensure interpreters are available when needed, the OCA also put in place a minimum payment of $220 for nonjury trials and $650 for jury trials.
According to OCA Director Wendy Little, she works to schedule interpreters based on dockets at least two to four weeks in advance, and very rarely does the OCA have interpreters who do not work the full amount of time scheduled.
“We’re trying to make sure we don’t schedule them if we don’t actually need them,” Little said. “So any time they are on schedule, it’s because I know I need them.”
Precinct 4 Commissioner Matt Gray questioned how the court scheduled the interpreters and suggested making it more cost efficient by lining out a day each week when all court cases that require an interpreter are handled at once. However, Little stated the biggest issue with that option is a technical issue because the OCA and the county court system use two competing software systems.
“Right now I have someone in my office who is manually making a list and sending that list out to the court coordinators, and the coordinators then mark those cases which need interpreters, and we’re working to generate a docket each day that tells us exactly which courts, exactly which people in the courthouse are going to need our services,” Little said.
According to IT Director Bobby Powell, the OCA utilizes TechShare, while the county uses Odyssey systems, and creating an interface that worked between the two systems could cost over $300,000.
The other concern pertained to the justice of the peace courts, which do not have the same requirements and regulations regarding court interpreters but still come from the OCA’s budget. However, Little clarified when there is an interpreter scheduled for those courts, the OCA no longer sends in a different bill for each court but only sends a bill for time spent collectively at each court.
The court voted unanimously to memorialize the court interpreter pay for the OCA as it was lined out at the Dec. 13 meeting.