Two full-time court interpreter positions were created by the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on June 13 after months of discussion surrounding pay rates and backlogged requests.

How we got here

According to Wendy Little, director of the Office of Court Administration for Montgomery County, the court system faced a number of issues getting certified interpreters into courtrooms when needed due to highly competitive pay rates in Harris County drawing them away.

In response, Montgomery County Commissioners Court approved a number of changes and measures which involved raising daily rates and even establishing a flat rate for interpreters for half and full days of service.

However, the court brought up concerns surrounding the amount of time interpreters actually spent in courtrooms while interpreters were still being paid for a full day of work, and they requested a proposal for full-time employees to serve as interpreters.

As of the time of the meeting, interpreter salaries had not yet been set, officials said at the meeting.

What they’re saying

“We have afternoon dockets constantly, especially in the felony courts and especially in the misdemeanor courts. So our day will not end at 2 [p.m.], and I don't want us to be less efficient. So the goal is we want to continue as we are doing, and I think the full-time employees will be able to handle that,” 435th District Court Judge Patty Maginnis said.

“We did make a gesture that we'd like the court to approve and that is for any of the employees in the county that are interested in taking the master certification course, it's $500, the county will pay for that,” Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said. “There are several judges that have men and women on their staff that are interested in taking that board here so they can serve as these interpreters and be able to fill in.”

Major takeaways

The two new positions created by the court include one full-time interpreter and one supervising interpreter who will also be responsible for reporting hours to the state and ensuring the county is in compliance with meeting interpreter needs, county officials said.

Court interpreters must have a master certification to work for the courts, and not having the certification is a Class A misdemeanor, according to information at the meeting.

The supervisory interpreter position will alleviate some of the additional duties held by Little and the OCA, officials said.