Free Spanish Court Interpretation Service Expanding

This week’s post comes to us from our colleagues in Texas.   Big thank you to Marco Hanson for sharing and making this post possible.  Keep up the great work folks, and Happy Valentine’s Day. – Kevin


Office of Court Administration


Administrative Director


Free Spanish Court Interpretation Service Expanding

For Immediate Release

January 22, 2014 

AUSTIN – This month the Office of Court Administration (OCA) announced the expansion of its remote interpreter services. Known as TCRIS (Texas Court Remote Interpreter Service), the program is based in Austin, but open to judges in every county for just the cost of a phone call or video-conference. 

“We are excited to bring this service to courtrooms across the state,” said David Slayton, Administrative Director for the Texas Office of Court Administration. “Having licensed and experienced interpreters increases access to justice and makes the court process more efficient and effective.” 

Legal Aid Attorneys with Spanish-speaking clients who need interpretation services in the courtroom can contact TCRIS in advance by e-mail ( or phone (512-463-5656). TCRIS interpreters have to make arrangements with the court coordinator and verify that the judge will permit remote interpretation prior to the interpreter services being rendered. Depending on call volume, the service is also available on-demand when unexpected needs arise for courtroom interpretation. 

TCRIS interpreters are licensed by the state and experienced in Texas law. Appropriate hearings for remote interpretation are those which would normally last half an hour or less and involve no complex evidence, such as:

·         Plea hearings

·         Bail hearings

·         Arraignments

·         Pre-trial motions

·         Prove-ups of uncontested divorces

·         Some hearings for evictions and protective orders.


For trials and other longer, more complex hearings, courts are still referred to on-site licensed interpreters. 

The goal of this program is to increase access to justice for Spanish-speakers in the court system. Already in its first few weeks, the service has been used frequently and with success. 

“The simplicity, reliability and quality of OCA’s telephone interpretation is truly amazing and we intend to use them often in the future,” said Rob Hoffman, District Court Judge for the 452nd Judicial District.

OCA has offered telephonic interpretation in the past for domestic violence, child protection and child support hearings, but with additional funding from the Texas Legislature, interpretation has now expanded to include short hearings in all courts and all case types. For more information see: .




Megan LaVoie

Director of Public Affairs & Special Counsel



Marco Hanson

Language Access Coordinator



0 thoughts on “Free Spanish Court Interpretation Service Expanding”

  1. Master Court Interpreter says:

    Attorneys will only be able to conference with their clients for trials with on site interpreters. Remote interpreting does not respect the goals of justice or equal access to court system

    1. Kevin Mercado says:

      Dear Master Court Interpreter,

      “Remote Interpreting” is a tool, and a valuable one. There are many instances where it is just not possible to have a licensed or certified interpreter physically present. The ability to have them present remotely is a plus.

      Like any other tool, it can be used incorrectly; a hammer can be used to drive a nail though wood or to bash a skull.

      Quite frankly a legal system which does not include “remote interpreting” would not be using all the language access tools available, and would be working against the goals of justice and equal access.

      As certified, licensed or otherwise professionals in the field we have an obligation to educate the courts so these tools are used properly.

      1. Master Court Interpreter says:

        A tool? Like any other tool? Sorry, but remote interpreting
        is hated by judges, attorneys, and professional interpreters.
        I have 25 plus years experience in the trenches.
        Only the private companies making money off of it love it,
        as do some court directors who have bought the argument that it saves money,
        or are under some directive from above to use it. .And
        some interpreters who wouldn’t work if it didn’t exist.
        Any any limited-English speaker if they want a live person or listen
        to a phone speaker or tv. Even if its “just a status conference”. Remember,
        a defendant or witness can be called to speak on the record at any time.
        Body movements, expressions, intonations, and other data are often lost
        remotely, less likely to in person. If no professional interpreter is able
        to PERSONALLY be there, that’s why the judge givse it another date and orders
        everone to come back. Remote interpreting is more expensive too because it takes 10 times longer to do a simple hearing by video or phone than by a seasoned pro interpreter who knows what they’re doing. When you factor in the investment in equipment, and lost court time, added to the poor quality of language access, you really start to wonder if “remote interpreting” is really better than the old ways, or just another example of automation replacing human work. Sounds like you have some kind of vested interest the way you’re defending it.

        1. Kevin Mercado says:

          No vested interest, just showing some support for our colleagues in Texas.

          I could go on about how certified/licensed interpreters are not always available in person, about how a remote interpreter to let a person know a hearing will be continued is better than no one at all, and so on… I could also point out the negatives: courts skirting their obligation to provide certified/licensed interpreters all together, or simply putting in minimal effort to secure someone in person, or using remote inappropriately and compromising equal access…

          I have no interest in changing your or anyone else’s opinion on the matter. Its a reality in Texas and other states as well. I could wine about it , or show some support to our colleagues and I choose the latter.

  2. Konnie Garrido says:

    No service is free. Someone somewhere is footing the bill. Of concern to many interpreters in Texas is the issue of competent, available interpreters being supplanted by the telephone service and the impact this can have on an LEP’s equal access to a legal process. Recently a colleague of mine in one of the wealthier counties in Texas sat in on a telephonic plea. It did not meet with the judge’s expectations, and the irony of my colleague being in the courtroom and clearly available to do the plea was not lost on the judge.
    The lure of “free” should not be used to replace in-person service and the majority of Texas licensed court interpreters (LCIs) are sincerely hoping that our esteemed judges in wealthier counties will opt to leave the telephonic service to those smaller, rural counties which have no ready access to in-person LCIs. That will go a long way to making equal access a reality for the LEP population in Texas courts.

  3. Jennifer De La Cruz says:

    Definitely an important issue to watch across the states. California courts are working hard to find ways to increase access, and VRI (Video Remote Interpreting) is on the table. It has its pros and cons, and discussions seem to conclude with it’s not when VRI will come to us, but rather how it will come to us… and at what cost. I encourage colleagues to watch this issue and be proactive in support of excellent practices for all involved. More than ever, we have to pull together as one community rather than putting out fires at the state level. Best to Texas colleagues and kudos to all who continue to be involved in our profession.

  4. Marco Hanson says:

    I appreciate everyone’s thought-provoking comments on this complex issue. I’m the supervisor of this Texas program, and have been working with the state for three years on a variety of strategies to deal with our growing shortage of licensed (a.k.a. certified) court interpreters. From 2007 to 2012, our LEP population grew from 3,124,927 to 3,388,348, but our interpreter ranks dropped from 627 to 544. That disparity shows no signs of improving, and the state judiciary is exploring solutions including expanded university courses, grants for interpreter training, changes to the regulatory statutes, a shift of interpreter licensing from another agency to ours, effective enforcement of existing policy, education for judges/coordinators/attorneys on language access rights, etc.
    Telephonic and videoconference interpreting like our TCRIS is only a tiny part of the puzzle, but for short matters like arraignments and prove-ups where no evidence is presented, it is helping to get competent interpretation by licensed professionals into courtrooms that might otherwise be using whatever bilingual person can be found nearby. Remote interpreting is not as good as having the same quality of interpreter present on-site, but it’s often better than having an untrained interpreter present on-site, and always better than having no interpreter at all, in a remote courthouse that won’t or can’t pay transportation, lodging and minimum appearance fees to an on-site interpreter from hundreds of miles away.

  5. NAJIT interpreter says:

    It is apparent that there is a shortage of certified/licensed interpreters in Texas, and I was heartened to see ways listed by Marco in which the TX judiciary is exploring solutions to bring more interpreters into the system to help ensure access to justice.

    I was curious as to why one of those listed solutions was not increased pay for interpreters. I don’t work in TX nor know the rate of pay for my TX colleagues. However, it seems that if there is a dire shortage of interpreters, raising the rate of pay would harness market forces to bring more interpreters to the judiciary in a simple way.

    Why are there less interpreters instead of more in a state where the LEP population is growing and so many individuals are bilingual and could be trained to work as interpreters? It doesn’t make sense.

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