Colorado court interpreters wont walk out over pay — for now

A group of Colorado courtroom interpreters who considered walking off the job Monday in protest of their pay rates will not do so after meeting with court officials last week.

The freelance interpreters had planned a two-day walkout for Monday and Tuesday after they unsuccessfully sought a pay increase from both the Colorado Judicial Department and Denver County Court this spring.

But State Court Administrator Steve Vasconcellos and Denver County Court Administrator Kristin Wood both met with some interpreters Friday, prompting the grassroots group that was eyeing the walkout to “postpone” this week’s work stoppage in order to negotiate in “good faith,” according to an email obtained by The Denver Post.

The interpreters could still walk off the job in the future if the process goes poorly, the email said. The loosely organized group is seeking a boost in the hourly pay rate for courtroom interpreters from between $45 and $55 per hour to between $60 and $90 per hour, among other concessions.

“The walkout remains a possibility,” reads the email obtained by The Post. A survey of interpreters across the state continues to show 80% support for a walkout among 78 responses. There are about 340 in-state certified interpreters in Colorado, according to the Colorado Judicial Department.

Rob McCallum, a spokesman for the department, issued a statement Sunday on behalf of both the Colorado Judicial Department and Denver County Court.

“We expect this will be the first in a series of meetings that will be necessary to formulate a mutually beneficial strategy moving forward,” the statement said. “The interpreter community works hard everyday to help Coloradans with limited English language proficiency, and our relationship is very important. We appreciate the interpreters forgoing their planned walkout so those in need of their help will receive it and we may continue our open dialogue.”

Friday’s meeting came weeks after the interpreters first sought the pay increase. In March, 83 Colorado interpreters signed a petition seeking a $10 increase in hourly rates that was sent to the Judicial Department’s Office of Language Access, which certifies interpreters for work in the courts. An identical request was sent to Denver County Court, which operates separately from state courts.

McCallum previously said in a statement that the interpreters’ request for a pay rate increase came too late in the year to be considered in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts in July.

Court interpreters are hired at an hourly rate to translate everything said during court proceedings so that participants who don’t speak English understand what’s going on. Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to an interpreter in court, and cases that need an interpreter can’t go forward without one.

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