Judge scolds defendant for using interpreter, rejects plea, confiscates driver’s license

November 18, 2014

By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

HART — A 44-year-old Hart man facing a cocaine possession charge got an earful from 27th Circuit Court Judge Terrence R. Thomas during his pretrial hearing Monday, Nov. 17, for bringing an English interpreter with him.

Thomas scolded Juan Leonel Estrada for wasting the court’s resources. “You don’t really need an interpreter,” Thomas said. “You don’t impress the court by using another resource of the court that you don’t need.”

Estrada’s attorney, Doug Springstead, told the judge that Estrada is “fairly fluent,” but utilized an interpreter because he was nervous and doesn’t understand legal language. “The legal vocabulary is different from the English vocabulary,” Springstead said.

“It is for everybody,” Thomas retorted.

“I’m not going to play these games with this baloney,” the judge said. “Why is this court paying for a translator? I think you’ve misused the process of the court. I think you’re playing a game with me.”

Estrada was prepared to plead guilty in exchange for a 30-day cap on his jail time. “I’m going to request that you pay additional costs,” Thomas said. “If you don’t pay additional costs, I’m going to put you in jail a lot longer than 30 days.”

The judge was so irked that he rejected Estrada’s plea and set the case for trial. “You’re going to pay for a translator at trial,” he told Estrada. “We’ll set the trial for as early as we can before the end of the year, and he might learn English in the meantime.”

The judge also took away Estrada’s Michigan driver’s license. “I am requesting that you turn it over to probation and parole,” he said. “You will be examined and get your driver’s license back if you pass an English proficiency exam.”

Springstead told the judge that taking away Estrada’s driver’s license will cause an extreme hardship for his client, who works at a local farm and has seven children.

“If you can’t understand English, how the heck did you get a Michigan driver’s license?” the judge asked. “You will surrender your driver’s license today. Anybody who has a driver’s license and doesn’t understand English can plead guilty to a cocaine charge. He’s getting his driver’s license suspended until he understands English and is safe on the road. He’s a threat to the public.”


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