Texas has 500 licensed court interpreters, but they all live in just 65 counties. It’s challenging to get people to interpret court proceedings for non-English speakers in Texas’ other 189 counties, says David Slayton, administrative director of the Texas Office of Court Administration.
“That’s what we’re trying to work on and develop a plan to better address that issue,” says Slayton, who last week attended the National Summit on Language Access in the Courts, an event hosted by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson and four other representatives of the Texas judiciary also attended the Oct. 1-3 event in Houston.
Slayton says the OCA wants to better educate county court officials about the need for interpreters; to increase access to interpreters across the state; and to expand a one-year-old video-conference interpreting program. The OCA also has an idea to create a program for counties to pool their resources for getting interpreters.
“I think it would be something no one else has done,” he says.
According to an NCSC press release, court personnel from 49 states attended the Houston summit to discuss best practices and share successful strategies.
Kay Farley, NCSC executive director of government relations, says the major themes that judicial personnel discussed at the summit included increasing training about language-access issues, using telephone and video conferencing technology to provide interpreters, and collecting better data about interpretation needs.
“There’s an increased number of people coming to the court who don’t speak English as their first language and need interpreting services. The numbers of languages are increasing. It’s not just a need for Spanish interpretation; there’s a significant need for many languages,” says Farley, who was project director of the summit.
-- Angela Morris