No Interpreter, A Civil Rights Violation

The Texas Civil Rights Project sues Harris County on behalf of a domestic violence survivor. It claims the county's refusal to provide interpreters for people with limited English proficiency in civil cases, limits their ability to protect themselves and their families. Pat Hernandez has the story.

The 37 year old woman from Mexico fled her alleged abuser who had proimised her marriage and a better life. The escape left her with barely enough money to live. She went to civil court on behalf of her daughter, sought a protective order, custody and child support.

Attorney Wayne Krause with the Texas Civil Rights Project is representing the woman. He says when she was denied an interpreter, she couldn't tell her story or understand the orders of the court.

"Thousands of women and children die every year as a result of domestic violence, and yet they're forced to wait or worse, discouraged to never come to court at all, because they can't get an interpreter. This is a simple access to court issue that Harris County can change easily."

Krause claims Harris County is jeopardizing millions of dollars in federal funding by refusing to provide interpreters under Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act.

Robert Soard is chief of staff for Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan. He says it is common practice for Harris County judges to appoint interpreters for people who are indigent and where constitutional rights are involved.

"What happens in each individual court depends partially upon the judge and how he sees a particular case, and what he does to appoint interpreters, and make sure that people's right are being protected in that court." 

Soard says his office is studying the specifics of the petition filed against the county. Meanwhile, attorney Krause says the petition asks that Harris County provide access to its courts.





Above image from left to right: Attorneys Wayne Krause, Abby Frank & Lauren Izzo with Texas Civil Rights Project

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...