Replacing a Houma court interpreter accused of extorting people she was supposed to help is a task local officials say they can manage quickly enough, resulting in no disruption to calendars or proceedings.

But a close look at options for aiding people who cannot speak English in local courts show a system that falls below Louisiana’s already minimal standards, despite claims by officials that all appears well.

Interviews with local court administrators, advocates for immigrants, justice system experts and state officials as well as information from relevant documents raise questions of local adequacy in a system vulnerable to being a vehicle of abuse toward vulnerable people, with little opportunity for quality control and oversight.

• No available interpreters in Terrebonne or Lafourche parishes currently qualify for registration in a state program designed to professionalize the practice.
• Advocates say some local interpreters sometimes give legal advice to the people they service, in itself a violation of the law, without officials knowing about it.
• Unlike Texas, California and a growing number of other states, Louisiana does not mandate that courts use only licensed or certified interpreters, merely maintaining a voluntary registry.
• Local officials do not mandate that interpreters meet the minimum thresholds for Louisiana’s voluntary registration program.

Read the full article in the Tri-Parish Times here:

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