Region 2 Update: Be in the know

September 5, 2020

Dear Region 2 Colleagues,

I truly hope and pray that you are all well and healthy as we continue to navigate the uncharted waters of the pandemic.

I am writing to update you on what has been going on in region 2. First and foremost, please know that we continue to work tirelessly to make sure courts are keeping interpreters safe. Some courts have been friendly and open to our suggestions and have implemented those suggestions. Other courts have not been as friendly nor willing to make immediate changes and consequently, we have persisted by filing request for information (making courts gather evidence for us), grievances, and filing unfair labor practices. We will continue on course with our mission to keep every court interpreter safe.

Second, I want to inform all that currently NO represented staff interpreter has been furloughed nor laid off (statewide). Since courts in region 2 operate on low interpreting staffing levels and rely heavily on contractors, we have a strong argument when it comes to furloughs and layoffs. Thus far, Santa Clara has been the only court to try furloughing interpreters. We had numerous meets and confers with Santa Clara, we made our case, and the court reconsidered and withdrew their intention to furlough interpreters. Unfortunately, there was an unrepresented ASL interpreter who was laid off. We also tried helping the ALS interpreter by providing information, contacts, and guidance. Yet, due to this interpreter not being represented, this individual was laid off. 

The fact that no member have been furloughed or laid off, does not mean we are out of the woods. There is no hiding the fact that our economy is in bad shape due to the pandemic. If courts decide to impose periodic closures as a cost savings measure, furloughs may happen. Because of the requirements stated in Article 20 of the region 2 MOU, not all employees will be eligible to cross assign and this may result in a loss of income. Some members feel that it is not necessary to submit the cross-assignment form since they are of the belief that the need to cross assign will never present itself. As we have witness through the pandemic and increased fires, unforeseen situations do happen. Please be prepared. Contact us asap if you have not submitted the form or don’t have the form. If you have access to the form, please fill it out and submitted to the region 2 courts chair (form submission instructions are stated on the form).

For those of you who have submitted your forms and your home court denied the opportunity to cross-assign because “they need you” due to low staffing levels, please try again. Explain to your supervisor that you are just preparing for unforeseen situations like natural disasters, court closures, and pandemics. Also, inform your supervisor that just because you are on the list, does not mean you are approved to cross-assign. Approval and release for cross-assignment is at the discretion of your home court. 

Third, I want to share that after much discussion, the Executive Board decided to preserve region 2 interpreters right to bargain a new MOU. The current MOU will be expiring at the end of September of 2020. Per the existing MOU:

The decision to bargain or not bargain falls on the region 2 members and their elected bargaining committee. Since there was no elected bargaining committee in June, the Executive board decided to preserve that right to decide whether to bargain, delay bargaining, or not to bargain. The newly elected bargaining committee, through the input of the members, will decide whether to bargain, delay bargaining, or not bargain. 

Just recently, CFI board received a letter from the region 2 court chair, Kim Tuner (Mendocino Court CEO), of their intention to impose VRI by December 1st, 2020 if we don’t respond prior to November 24th, 2020 and engage in a meet and confer to mitigate impacts. The court is citing Article 19 paragraph 9 of the MOU.

The region 2 courts are proposing to adopt in its entirety the region 4 VRI provisions found in the executed MOU and the Judicial Councils VRI guidelines. Those same provisions were also adopted in the recently executed region 3 MOU at bargaining. You can review the region 4 MOU VRI provision and by clicking here (Article 51 pages 30-34) and Judicial Council VRI guidelines (Addendum to MOU Regarding JCC Guidelines for Using VRI pages 39-42).

There are pros and cons to this situation. Here are a few:


    • Having VRI language will give leverage to members who work in courts who have not been open to using the option of VRI to keep members safe during the pandemic.
    • Will include the 25% VRI stipend
    • Will open the possibility of cross assigning to distant outlaying courts who have a severe language access issue due to lack of in-person interpreters willing to make the travel
    • Will help keep the interpreter budget healthy during these difficult times.
    • If courts impose, we can still bargain for better conditions (similar to region 3 situation)
    • Will give us leverage to bargain during the meet and confer for VRI, for all staff interpreters be eligible for cross assignments (both in-person and through the VRI platform).


    • There is always the possibility of technical, visual, and audio problems.
    • Will reduce the courts usage of independent contractors in courts who have low staffing levels.
    • Will take away a huge bargaining chip if the members decide to bargain.
    • Is much more exhausting
    • Some courts may use VRI for inappropriate case events. For example, trails
    • Will require some members to use their personal equipment.
    • If working from home, will require larger WiFi bandwidth
    • Takes the humanity away from interpreting.
    • LEP’s will have to navigate on their own the aftermath of any hearing.


A survey will be going out soon regarding the direction region 2 members want to take regarding this issue. 

Lastly, I want to update you on the interpreter budget. The approved budget amount has not changed. The budget remains at an all time high ($131.1 million). However, in the past 3 years (budget was less than current amount), contractor rates have significantly increased which has cause previous budgets to end the fiscal year in the red. In the last fiscal year (2019-2020), prior to the pandemic, the courts had nearly depleted that year’s budget. Courts paid contractors almost $35 million of the interpreter budget, resulting in an $11+ million deficit. Therefore, of the 2020-2021 budget ($131.1 million), $11 million was used to reimburse money taken from other programs. Consequently, this makes 2020-2021 budget $120 million. 

These deficits and Judicial Council’s request to increase the budget has the Governor and Legislature asking questions. Or representatives in Sacramento have been throwing around the idea of an audit. Our lobbyist has been using this opportunity to inform the executive and legislation branch on how courts are not making employment attractive enough for contractor interpreters. Currently, the amount on average that contractors make surpasses a season employee yearly wage plus benefits.

For the reason previously mentioned, the Judicial Council Budget Advisory Committee has proposed to change the current reimbursement allocation methodology, where courts get reimbursed dollar for dollar in interpreter expenses, to an allocation reimbursement methodology. The allocation reimbursement methodology will allocate set amounts for each court based on what their expenditures were last fiscal year. This allocation methodology will include a set amount for employees and a set amount for contractors. If courts spend more than what is allocated, they will be forced to use money from their operations budget. Click here to read the proposal report.

The idea behind this allocation methodology is to curve contractor high rates. However, it has the potential for courts to use this as an excuse not to hire employees, discourage employment, or most harmful, deny language access to limited English proficient court user in lower priority case types. The Judicial Council Budget Committee proposal has been submitted to the Judicial Council for consideration, approval vote, and implementation. This allocation methodology is a “year test” and will determine if the allocation methodology shall continue the following years.

CFI opposes this allocation methodology for the reasons already mentioned: can be used as an excuse to not hire, discourage employment and can be very harmful to language access. CFI has already submitted a letter of opposition to the budget advisory body and plans to submit another to the Judicial Council soon. I have already informed and are in communication with the ACLU and if approved by the Judicial Council, will be contacting the Department of Justice Language Access department. Since the allocation methodology will force the courts to keep an accounting of expenditures, CFI plans to request information from each court often to review court spending. 

Please feel free to contact me if you have questions, suggestions, or would like for hold a zoom meeting with your court colleagues to discuss interpreter issues. 

One more thing, CFI would like to provide free or vey low cost remote platform instructor led CIMCE course to members. We are in search of instructors who currently have active approved CIMCE courses. If you know of anyone who might be interested in teaching, please contact me or have the instructor contact me to discuss the possibility. 

In solidarity,

Janet Hudec, VP 
CFI-Local 39000 
[email protected] 
[email protected]