CFI addresses Judicial Council over video remote proceedings

California Federation of Interpreters President Michael Ferreira.
California Federation of Interpreters President Michael Ferreira.

CFI President Michael Ferreira highlighted language access concerns on Thursday over a Judicial Council plan to let courts carry out remote video proceedings.

The Judicial Council’s Traffic and Court Technology Advisory Committees recommend establishing a pilot project in to allow courts to conduct remote video proceedings in cases involving traffic infractions. It would let defendants in those cases choose to appear at trial by two-way video from remote locations designated by the court, particularly in rural areas where court closures now force people to travel farther for court proceedings.

The Council approved the program after hearing public comments from Ferreira and CFI legislative advocate Ignacio Hernandez that raised issues and questions surrounding the plan. Listen to their comments here.

During the presentation, CFI asked the Judicial Council to ensure the program required interpreters to be on-site with the court user for several reasons, including providing sight translations of documents and having the benefit of observing extra-linguistic cues that add to full communication.

However, the Council didn’t require on-site interpreters in approving the pilot program when it approved the project.

Ferreira also posed questions to consider for this type of program, including:

  • How will documents, photos and other materials be shown to the bench officer on the screen?
  • If a defendant wants to talk confidentially with a witness or attorney, what process is in place to ensure privacy?
  • What arrangements have been made for interpretation of both witness and defendant, since ethics require interpreters to stay with one party or another.

The idea for the pilot project originated in Fresno County, which recently had to close several courts because of budget cuts. Court officials in Fresno will now have to submit their plan for remote video interpreting for Judicial Council approval before it can get underway.


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Michael Applegate

Pacific Media Workers Executive Officer