Deaf man said Texas judge spoke at him without interpreter; asked son to interpret
Patrick Cassidy, a Deaf man from Marble Falls, Texas, said Burnet County (TX) Judge Linda Bayless ordered him to stand before her in a courtroom, spoke to him without an interpreter, and told him that she knew he could read her lips.
There was an ASL interpreter in the courtroom, but she informed the judge that she couldn’t interpret in a hearing because she was assigned to interpret only in a “side conversation,” in a private negotiation.
Patrick Cassidy: I went to court on March 20th. It was actually supposed to be simple, it is called a “final order,” meaning we’re wrapping it up. It is for custody.
After the negotiation part is finished, the process was supposed to be turned over to the judge who gives final approval, then it’d be done.
But…when we sat waiting in the back room, what happened was that the interpreter, the judge and two other people started to argue while I was sitting in the back with my son sitting next to me, he’s 20 years old.
My son told me that they’re arguing and arguing about something. I had no idea.
Alex: He said the other party, a Deaf person, had a hearing attorney representing her.
The court provided an ASL interpreter from Austin-based agency “Communication by Hand” to assist in the negotiations between the two parties and a representative from the Texas Attorney General’s office.
Cassidy said the negotiations was supposed to happen in a side room or a table, with Judge Bayless approving it at the end. That was the expectation.
But there was some kind of complication that prompted Judge Bayless to speak out while she was seated on her bench.
The interpreter declined to interpret for the judge or for any communication on the court floor (outside of a side room) because it was beyond the scope of her interpreting assignment and would breach her code of ethics.
Patrick Cassdiy: I just sat there and then all of sudden, the judge up in the front, 30 feet away, all of sudden the judge called me. I didn’t get it right away.
We just sat there then my son told me that the judge wanted me to go up there.
I was a little confused and said, “OK”, then I walked up to the front of the judge. The interpreter just stood there over there on the left.
The judge asked me if I could read lips.
I was confused, said nothing and gestured that I have an interpreter right there.
Then the judge started speaking to me saying, “I know you can read lips.”
I was taken aback and looked around. All these people there were just quiet. I just gestured that I didn’t understand.
Then next thing the judge said was if I wanted to go to trial and pointed at a chair on my right. Trial!
I was confused and there were words I missed out on.
I did look back to my son to show him that I was confused.
Then the judge summoned my son, ordered him, to immediately come up here now. He walked up and stood to my right.
I looked at him then I ended up missing even more of what the judge was saying.
Basically my understanding was the judge scolded at my son saying his father could read lips. Your father hasn’t been paying child support. The judge dragged my son into this situation.
I was taken aback and very confused.
Alex: Cassidy said he could barely understand the discussions and only fully knew what was discussed several weeks, three weeks later, when he got the court reporter’s record, a transcript, which he had to pay $78 for. He provided “The Daily Moth” with it.
(Image of transcript)
“REPORTER’S RECORD CAUSE NO. 43963, IN THE INTEREST OF PHILLIP (redacted) CASSIDY AND (redacted) IN THE COUNTY COURT AT LAW, BURNET COUNTY, TEXAS
THE COURT: I haven’t even called the case yet. I haven’t called the case. So I just need to know — you can read lips, correct? Can you read lips? Do you read lips?
Alex: The transcript showed that Cassidy used his voice to speak, but that the judge talked about his case towards his son.
(Image of transcript)
THE COURT: Phillip. And you —
MR. BAKER: This is the oldest child.
THE COURT: And you — you do sign language and —
PHILLIP CASSIDY: I’m not completely fluent but enough to —
THE COURT: Okay. This is our problem, Phillip. Our interpreter has informed us that she can’t interpret for a meeting or a conversation —
(Another image of transcript)
Why don’t you tell him that.
PHILLIP CASSIDY: So there’s —
THE COURT: Stop. Tell him what I just said.
PHILLIP CASSIDY: He thought today was the final order thing.
THE COURT: Was the what?
PHILLIP CASSIDY: The final order thing.
Patrick Cassidy: it seemed like it was becoming personal like I was wasting the judge’s time. She… I felt conflicted because I tried, I needed clear and effective communication in what was a legal setting. I need it. I felt like I was being oppressed and diminished. I felt a bit oppressed because I missed a lot! I mean…every hearing person in the room knew exactly what was going on. I had no idea. My feeling is why did the judge act that way with me because I don’t know.
Alex: “The Daily Moth” reached out to the court and Judge Bayless for comment. They declined to comment because the case is pending.
The CEO of Communication by Hand, Delia Mott Merritt, told “The Daily Moth” that interpreting in court or other legal situations is very different than almost all other interpreting work.
She explained that a courtroom interpreter cannot interpret for both “proceedings” and “table” scenarios. It has to be one or the other. She said this was to avoid conflict of interest and to maintain neutrality.
In the transcript, you can see that Judge Bayless was angry at the Communication by Hand interpreter, saying it was “crazy” and that she would not be using them again.
[Clip of Transcript]
THE INTERPRETER: Your Honor, if you want me to interpret for them, I can, but then I cannot do any of the proceedings on the record. I can’t do both.
THE COURT: That’s just crazy. What’s the point of us having you here? It’s — like I said, it’s worthless. Mark their name off the list. We will not call this company again. Okay?
Alex: “The Daily Moth” asked Merritt what she thought of this comment. Here is her response.
“This court has a history of being insensitive to the communication needs of our Deaf community, as well as, ignorant to the rules regarding interpreters in proceedings and other hearings. Despite our sending this court documents listing court interpreter rules, protocol and the laws regarding effective communication in the courtroom, they have made no positive changes to ensure all Deaf parties involved are provided with equal communication in their courtroom. We stand ready to serve them anytime they need court certified interpreters. They need only contact our office.” — Delia Mott Merritt
Alex: Thank you for your comment, Merritt.
Cassidy has filed a complaint with the Commission on Judicial Conduct and reached out to the NAD and Disability Rights Texas to assist him.
Cassidy said his case is not resolved. He has a court date this week with the same judge on the same case.
Judge Bayless is the same judge who, two years ago, threatened to jail a hearing attorney who is fluent in ASL, Amber Farrelly over issues with interpreting scheduling and costs. “The Daily Moth” did go there two years ago and did an interview with Farrelly. So it’s the same judge in those two situations.
Judge Bayless: http://www.burnetcountytexas.org/page/cal.home
TDM Interview with Amber Farrelly (2016): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkqPrjECefg