As an interpreter, you have completed all the coursework and passed the examinations necessary to obtain your professional certification under Texas law. If you receive notice that someone has filed a complaint against you, you likely feel overwhelmed and unsure where to turn first. No matter how unfounded the allegations against you may be, you should always take disciplinary complaints seriously to protect your professional certification and career. Contacting an experienced Texas interpreter’s certification defense lawyer should be your first step if you receive notice of a complaint against you.
DARS DHHS and the Complaint Process
Texas Health and Human Services is the state agency that houses the Texas Board for Evaluation of Interpreters (BEI). BEI administers the state’s general interpreter certification program for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. This board is part of the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS).
As part of its duties, DARS DHHS receives and resolves complaints against BEI certificate holders that contain any alleged violations or objectionable actions. Complainants have 90 days from the date of the alleged incident to submit their complaints to DARS DHHS.
Upon receipt of the complaint, DARS DHHS sends the complainant an acknowledgment that the agency has received the complaint and notice that they will forward the complaint to the BEI-certified interpreter for a response.
Next, DARS DHHS will send the complaint and any related materials to the BEI certificate holder and request a written response within a specific timeframe. DARS DHHS will also furnish the certified interpreter with a copy of the DARS rules concerning the grounds for denial, suspension, or revocation of an interpreter certificate and the Interpreter’s Code of Professional Conduct.
The DARS DHHS Investigation
DARS DHHS staff will investigate the matter to determine whether sufficient grounds exist to support the allegations. This investigation includes:
- A fact-finding search
- A review of the complaint and any supporting documentation
- A review of the interpreter’s response to the complaint
- Interviews of any witnesses
- Consultation with DARS Legal Services and the BEI Advisory Board, if necessary
Resolution of Complaints
If DARS DHHS staff determine there is insufficient evidence to support the allegations, they will close the complaint as unsubstantiated and notify both parties. On the other hand, if DARS DHHS staff determine there is sufficient evidence to support the allegations, they will resolve the situation by:
- Taking no further administrative action, by
- A letter of reprimand, or
- The certificate holder’s voluntary agreement to accept a disciplinary action or an agreed final order,
- Initiating an administrative disciplinary action against the certificate holder
If DARS DHHS determines that the violation warrants a proposal for revocation, suspension, or probation of a certification, the certificate holder is entitled to an administrative hearing. In that case, DARS DHHS will send a certified letter to the BEI certificate holder notifying them of the following:
- Notice of the proposed disciplinary action
- Notice of entitlement to and opportunity to request an administrative hearing
- Provision of relevant information about the administrative hearing process
- Deadline of 30 days to submit a written request to the DARS hearing coordinator for a hearing on the proposed action, or DARS will impose the administrative action
- Provision of contact information for the DARS hearing coordinator
DARS DHHS attempts to resolve all complaints within 90 days, but some take longer. If a certificate holder requests an administrative hearing, the resolution process almost always takes longer than 90 days.
In the event of an administrative hearing request, the DARS hearing coordinator assigns an impartial hearing officer and schedules a hearing. The hearing proceeds, and at the end of the hearing, the hearing officer analyzes and considers the evidence presented and issues a decision in the case.
Complaints Against Licensed Court Interpreters
Court interpreters are licensed by a different branch of the Texas state government altogether. The Texas Judicial Branch Certification Commission (TJBCC) licenses court interpreters under Tex. Gov. Code § 157.001.
The TJBCC Rules outline the disciplinary process that court interpreters and other selected court employees can face if complaints are filed against their licenses. Depending on the severity of the situation, licensed court interpreters can be subject to:
- Temporary cease and desist orders
- Denial, revocation, suspension, or refusal to renew a license
- Injunction to restrain against certain violations
- Administrative penalties
The TJBCC must send notice of the complaint to the interpreter and request a response. It then must determine whether sufficient evidence supports the allegations of violating the rules or laws. If the TJBCC determines that a violation has occurred, it can propose a sanction. The interpreter can accept the proposed sanction or request a hearing before the TJBCC. That agency must hear the evidence, deliberate, and issue findings of fact and conclusions of law in support of its decision. Upon receiving the decision of the TJBCC, the interpreter has the right to accept the decision and accompanying sanction or appeal the decision.
Defend Yourself Against Disciplinary Proceedings Involving Your Interpreter’s License
Don’t allow an isolated complaint to wreak havoc on your career. Losing your ability to support yourself will only worsen your situation. If you are facing the loss of your interpreter’s certification for any reason, we can help you take the steps necessary to challenge your disciplinary proceedings. Contact an interpreter’s license defense lawyer at Bertolino LLP, for advice today. Make an appointment by calling (512) 515-9518 or contact us online to see how we can help.