Language Access Plan

CFI Exposes Judicial Council Misrepresentations on VRI and Promotes Better Pay for Contractors

SAN FRANCISCO (April 23, 2016) _ CFI submitted comments showing that high-ranking Judicial Council members have been promoting video remote interpreting (VRI) based on misrepresentations of its suitability for courtroom hearings, and stressed the need to raise the per diem rates for independent contractors, during the most recent Language Access Plan Implementation Task Force meeting.

CFI's findings on VRI are based on its yearlong investigation into VRI use for American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation in California and for spoken languages in Fresno and Florida.

CFI found that VRI’s usefulness and success have been misrepresented and overstated by proponents, including Judicial Council staff who exaggerated positive outcomes of the ASL VRI Pilot Program based on limited evaluations and selective analysis, and failed to acknowledge a substantial decline in its usage since then.

The success of Fresno's “cart solution,” which refers to the pushcart that carries its VRI equipment, has also been misrepresented by court leadership. CFI found this system has only been used three times in the past two years, for rare languages. Other than that, Fresno has only used VRI for traffic appearances, and on a very limited basis.

CFI’s comments challenged the repeated assertion that these programs are evidence of VRI’s effectiveness, and stressed the need to carefully study VRI before concluding that it can be used in lieu of in-person interpreters without compromising due process, much less expand language access or save money.

"CFI is not against VRI, with appropriate controls, but we will be vigilant to make sure it is not misused," said CFI Legislative Representative Mary Lou Aranguren.

The Judicial Council’s March 22 event was meant to reach out to community members and stakeholders. Language Access Plan Implementation Task Force members provided progress updates and discussed challenges during three panel presentations that took up most of the meeting, leaving only 30 minutes for public comments.

"Although interpreters are the core of language access services in the court system, this meeting was focused on websites, tool kits and other online resources,” remarked CFI President Ariel Torrone. “That’s all great of course, but I can’t help notice how little they have to say about the work we do, and how they don’t see us as a resource and asset that can actually help them make language access work.” 

LAP_Ariel, Anabelle, Lucy, Joel, Janet

Freelance Chair Joel Rupert spoke on the need to increase the contractor per diem in order to recruit top notch interpreters to the courts. The pay rate for contract court interpreters were last increased in 2007.

"Stagnation of the daily compensation rates have had an impact on availability," Rubert said. "It's caused an exodus to the private and federal sector and depleted the courts." 

Aside from the extensive written comments on VRI, CFI also submitted copies of two letters about current issues: LA Superior Court's executive officer limiting access to interpreters for attorney interviews and a communication to Santa Clara Superior Court's presiding judge about the severe shortage of Spanish interpreters



*VRI, *courts, *union, *independent contractors