Court delays prompt push for full-time Spanish interpreters

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- "Access in the justice -- the legal system is complex for anybody," Mauricio Calvo, executive director of Latino Memphis, told WREG.

Calvo said the courts are often tougher for Hispanic people because of language barriers.

"They go to the court and they cannot communicate with somebody, or worse, they bring a family member or somebody who is not qualified to be an actual interpreter," Calvo said.

"We have defendants, we have victims, we have witnesses that do not always speak English," Richard DeSaussure, Shelby County Criminal Court Clerk, said.

The language barrier is one of the reasons Shelby County is pushing forward with a plan to hire two full-time court interpreters.

"These two staff will be targeting the 90 percent caseload of the ever growing Hispanic community in our society," Danny Kail, CAO with the Criminal Court Clerk's Office, said.

DeSaussure said the way the courts currently work with interpreters is inefficient and causes major delays.

The Spanish-speaking community is looking forward to a change.

"One of the things that is exciting about this particular initiative is the accessibility and the dependability of those interpreters," Calvo said.

The staffers the city is looking to hire would be on standby and responsible for other duties.

Last fiscal year, the state was billed $165,000 in court interpreter fees.

The new plan under the proposed grant would cut the hefty price tag nearly in half.

A majority of the money would be coming from the state while Shelby County will have to pitch in ten percent of the cost.

"For a small ten percent price, the county gets interpreters that are ready to go at a moment's notice," DeSaussure said.

The interpreters' office is already prepared, and the goal is to have the seats filled by October 1st.

The grant has been a major effort for more than a year by several courts, judges, and the Shelby County Administration.

The budget is still scheduled to go before the Shelby County Commission before approval in June.


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