In an unexpected move, last week a divided Dallas County Commissioners Court voted to raise the salaries of independent court translators.
"I was pleased to see it," says Lana McDaniel, presiding felony judge at the Frank Crowley courts building. "Frankly, I was kind of surprised."
As the Dallas Observer reported last month ("Lost in translation," February 25), the move may ease tensions between commissioners, judges, independent interpreters, and Tizoc's Language Consultants, the firm that contracts with Dallas County to provide translation services in the county's criminal courts. The judges have long expressed frustration over the quality of interpretations provided by Tizoc's, which the judges suggested recently had its contract renewed by county commissioners more concerned with keeping court costs down than with the quality of justice provided in the criminal courts.
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In turn, Tizoc's president Guillermo Galindo told the Observer that the judges' preference for independent translators was a "divide and conquer" tactic designed to keep his minority-owned business from growing.
For at least 13 months, Dallas County's judges have been maneuvering behind the scenes to get a raise for the independent interpreters. But thanks to a 20-year-old statute, the judges have been unable, without the county's approval, to pay the independent translators more than $100 a day--an amount that the judges and interpreters alike contend is too low.
Following the commissioners' vote last week, independent Spanish interpreters will be paid $25 an hour, with a $50 minimum and a maximum of $200 a day. (Interpreters will receive $35 an hour for other languages, up to a maximum of $280 a day.)
The vote was close, with three commissioners--Jim Jackson, Mike Cantrell, and County Judge Lee Jackson--voting to raise the independents' rates, and commissioners Ken Mayfield and John Wiley Price voting against.