CFI continues monitoring the impact of budget cuts in various courts in Region 4.
California Federation of Interpreter representatives have met or have set up meetings with Region 4 courts to gain more information about potential future impact from the budget cuts.
So far, most courts have not shared any plans for immediate changes to interpreter services.
At this time, the interpreter line item in the state budget remains intact, including the baseline and the surplus. This does not mean, however, that it is not a tempting target. Representatives, including CFI’s lobbyist, remain vigilant of the budget process.
The Imperial Court is one of the smallest courts in the Region with the least number of interpreters. Discussions with court representatives indicate that an interpreter recently retired and so there are no plans to change current interpreter staffing levels.
The court has not indicated that they plan to furlough or reduce the interpreter workforce. However, human resources analyst Rudy Figueroa said the court is currently attempting to track how much time interpreters spend actually interpreting. This sounds similar to what is happening in San Diego as officials attempt to evaluate interpreter workload. It appears no other employee groups are being monitored to determine the amount of time spent on each individual task.
The union questioned the accuracy and value of this approach. A meeting has been set for Thursday, July 26.
The Riverside Court indicated that they have been working for some time now to anticipate and plan for impact from the budget cuts. At this time, they do not anticipate lay-offs or furloughs. To maintain a dialogue, CFI representatives requested a meeting with Court administration and hope to meet in early August.
The San Bernardino Court is the only court in Region 4 that reached out to CFI to meet to face to face. Court CEO Stephen Nash, Assistant CEO Chris Volkers and Human Resources Director Kim Turner met on July 19 with CFI President Michael Ferreira and CFI Rep Silvia Barden.
Given the crushing budget cuts, the court anticipates that all employees will be affected, including interpreters. Mr. Nash indicated that the court is weighing all its options; including the possibility of furloughing employees; closing courthouses on Friday afternoons; and lay-offs. They did not talk about laying off interpreters.
The Court confirmed that the Chino courthouse is set to close in approximately January 2013. The work from that courthouse will be redistributed though administrators are not yet sure where the cases will be sent. Also, the Needles courthouse will be open only three days per week.
We discussed the widely held, but inaccurate, perception that interpreters have not participated in court cost saving measures to the same extent as other court employees. We pointed out that in fact interpreters throughout Region 4 have consistently been subjected to the same cost cutting measures as other court employees, even when applying these measures to interpreters did not save the court any money. Interpreters have been furloughed without receiving the ongoing cost of living increases, steps and other offsets afforded to other court employees. Fewer independent contractors are being utilized, which equals a reduction in the interpreter workforce. Clearly, interpreters have shared in the pain caused by budget woes over the years.
While the full impact of the cuts is not yet known and no final decisions have been made Mr. Nash and his team expressed a commitment to maintain an ongoing dialogue with all the unions as we face current and upcoming challenges.
Like other courts in the region and the state, the budget cuts have hit San Diego hard and interpreters have expressed concern that they do not yet know how they could be affected. Assistant CEO Steve Cascioppo indicated that the court has been dealing with immediate effects from the budget cuts on other employee groups. The court has not yet been able to turn its attention to whether or how interpreters will be impacted. He said the Court is evaluating the amount of time interpreters spend actually interpreting, but do not yet have the results of that study. As with Orange County, the Union questioned the value and accuracy of the method by which they are collecting information.
CFI Rep Silvia Barden and CFI Southern Vice-president Rebeca Vera requested a meeting to discuss the impact of the budget cuts and other issues. We will meet with the Court Downtown this Monday morning. Immediately following the meeting we will be available to meet with interpreters. You can find us near the coffee cart at the entrance to the Downtown courthouse. Afterward, we will send out an update about the meeting.
It is often the employees in court who first hear about potential changes in the workplace. Please contact us with any information you hear about courtrooms closing or any other anticipated changes so that we may confirm whether the information is correct.
We will continue to maintain a dialogue with the courts about what lies ahead and keep you informed as we receive information.
Silvia Barden, Field Representative