Interpreter case remanded to district court

December 9, 2014


By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

HART — The drug case against a Hispanic Hart man who received a scolding from a circuit court judge for bringing a court-appointed interpreter with him to court last month has been remanded to district court.

After receiving an earful from 27th Circuit Court Judge Terrence R. Thomas Nov. 17 for “wasting the court’s resources” with the English translator, 44-year-old Juan Leonel Estrada’s plea was rejected by the judge and his driver’s license was confiscated. “I’m not going to play these games with this baloney,” the judge previously 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.” Related story here

Estrada, who is facing a cocaine possession charge, appeared before Judge Thomas with a court-appointed attorney, Doug Springstead. He has since retained an attorney, Ed Anderson of Muskegon. “If the preliminary exam has been waived, then a defense attorney can make a motion (to have it remanded to district court),” Anderson said. “The case is getting larger than the facts, and the interests of justice are getting lost.” Estrada’s case went “berserk,” the attorney said, apparently in reference to the reactions that followed on social media sites when OCP first broke the story. “I want to get some normalcy back,” he said. The attorney did not have information immediately available regarding whether Estrada plans to have an interpreter at his next court appearance or the status of his driver’s license. “You will be examined and get your driver’s license back if you pass an English proficiency exam,” Judge Thomas told Estrada during the Nov. 17 hearing.

Estrada will go before a different judge in the lower court — 78th District Court Judge H. Kevin Drake. The date of his appearance has not yet been scheduled, since paperwork is in the process of being filed by Anderson’s office, Oceana County Prosecutor Joe Bizon said. “Any case can (be remanded back to district court), especially when there is a new attorney,” Bizon said. “We are moving toward a resolution that both parties can agree upon.”

A new pretrial for Estrada in circuit court was scheduled for Monday, Dec. 15, shortly after his Nov. 17 appearance when Judge Thomas rejected his plea and set the case for the trial. Related story here Bizon does not believe next Monday’s hearing date is in effect any longer in light of the recent development.

The 74-year-old Judge Thomas is retiring at the end of the year due to age requirements and state restructuring, and announced that he has thrown his hat in the ring take over as Newaygo County Sheriff for the retiring Sheriff Mike Mercer, who has two years remaining on the elected term. Related story here

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