Court Interpreters urge courts to keep providing language services in domestic violence cases
SAN FRANCISCO _ Representatives from the California Federation of Interpreters highlighed the urgent need to clarify that funds are indeed available to provide interpreters for domestic violence victims during a Judicial Council meeting Thursday.
CFI legislative committee member Mary Lou Aranguren urged Judicial Council members to correct the misinformation that has led some courts to deny interpreters in domestic violence and civil proceedings such as restraining orders, child custody, visiting and support.
Recently, some courts have stopped sending employee interpreters and hiring contract interpreters to aid with the workload stemming from domestic violence proceedings involving limited English proficient victims. Court officials blamed the depleted funds from Domestic Violence/Family Law Interpreter Program, which reimburses courts for providing interpreting services during domestic violence matters.
In prepared remarks, CFI representative Brandon Scovill pointed out that while the money from the domestic violence program has dwindled for the year, funds from the interpreter budget are available to reimburse courts for costs connected to domestic violence proceedings. Unspent funds alone in the interpreter budget have reached $8 million, Judicial Council figures show.
CFI also questioned how courts reached the erroneous conclusion, which essentially turns away domestic violence victims seeking help to protect themselves from their abusers.
Tara Shabazz, executive director of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, provided written comments explaining how vital interpreters are in ensuring victims’ safety.
“If a victim’s testimony cannot be shared and she cannot fully follow the court proceedings and provide clear and complete responses, the result can be denial of a protective order, failure to convict an offender, and court decisions that do not adequately take into account the safety concerns present for the victim and children,” Shabazz wrote in a letter to the council.
CFI, part of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, represents nearly 1,000 court interpreters in California who provide services in some 50 languages.