LANGUAGE ACCESS

CFI, legal organizations highlight to LAP task force how courts fall short on language access 

SAN FRANCISCO (Jan. 27, 2016) _ CFI president Ariel Torrone expressed his appreciation Wednesday for the work the Language Access Plan Implementation task force has undertaken but cautioned that some courts are still not adhering to the group's recommendations.

Torrone told the task force about stopping at the Hall of Justice in San Jose, where a severe shortage of Spanish interpreters has crippled language access for court users and led to health problems for several interpreters. 

"CFI, and I personally, also are very, very thrilled about this plan...," Torrone said. "But news doesn't seem to percolate to all the courts."

Despite legislation expanding language services into civil matters, courts are still telling litigants to bring their own interpreter, particularly for other than Spanish languages. Maureen Keffer, director of the Indigenous Program at California Rural Legal Assistance, told the task force how an Arabic litigant in an unlawful detainer case was told by the San Diego Superior Court an interpreter would not be provided, although one is provided for Spanish-speaking litigants.

"It is an unacceptable system," Keffer said. "They are not alone in having a parallel two-track system."

During the meeting, the task force also discussed plans for posting a request for proposal (RFP) for a Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) pilot project. The RFP would seek 1 to 3 vendors who can provide equipment and tech support to a group of courts for a 6-month time frame, said Justice Terence L. Bruiniers of the Technology subcommittee.

The VRI pilot will be recommended for approval by the Judicial Council at its meeting next month. It also would include the Superior Court of Fresno, which has been a proponent VRI, he said.  

Torrone warned that VRI is not a cure all and reminded the task force that as court interpreters begin to retire, its important to aggressively recruit interpreters to the profession. 

Listen to audio from the most recent Language Access Plan Implementation Task Force meeting.