CFI sponsors bill to establish statewide language access plan in courts

CFI President Michael Ferreira spoke Friday in support of a state assembly bill that calls for California to establish a language access plan for the courts.

The California Federation of Interpreters is a sponsor of AB1127, introduced last month by Assembly Member Ed Chau of District 49 in Southern California. The bill would require the state to develop a plan that provides limited English proficient Californians linguistic access to the court system.

“It’s going to clear up misconceptions and misunderstandings that have caused limitations insofar as getting language access and providing language access,” Ferreira said during a press conference with Chau in Alhambra.

Nearly 7 million people cannot access California’s courts without significant language services, Chau said.

“Often times the lack of comprehension impacts … the justice system,” he said. “It is the single most important barrier to justice.”

An attorney who also served as judge pro tem, Chau told the audience he saw litigants who brought their children to interpret as they faced the daunting task of navigating an unfamiliar court system.

Ferreira told the story of a Northern California woman who had to use her child as an interpreter to obtain a restraining order against her husband and a Southern California family who was evicted because they could not explain to the court that they withheld rent because their home was rat infested and lacked proper plumbing.

“Those who are limited English language proficient are at a disadvantage every single day in the court system … Whether in a criminal trial or trying to access relief in the civil sector,” Ferreira said.

Previously, we reported the following:

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CFI board members met in Costa Mesa last weekend to discuss policy and financial matters.
CFI board members met in Costa Mesa last weekend to discuss policy and financial matters.

COSTA MESA — CFI leaders and staff updated members Saturday, March 2nd about legislative efforts on behalf of interpreters and in support of expanding language access.

During the seminar and meeting, CFI presented members with information about two recently introduced bills in the state Legislature. Those are:

  • SB597, which would establish a pilot project in 5 courts to provide interpreting in civil matters. The Judicial Council would report on the program and provide recommendations about it to the Legislature. Currently some California courts provide interpreters for some civil court hearings, but others do not.
  • AB1127, which would call for California to develop a statewide plan for language access. Additional details about the bill are still being finalized.

On the federal level, CFI also has provided comments for a draft assessment to guide courts in improving their language assistance services to the public.

The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Federal Coordination and Compliance Section created the draft technical assistance and planning tool to aid courts in developing comprehensive language access programs. The agency sought public comments on the assessment by March 1.

CFI has been advocating for improved language access through quality interpreter services at the state and federal level.

DOJ officials have been looking at courts around the country to ensure they are complying with federal civil rights requirements by providing those with limited English proficiency (LEP) access to court services.

CFI will continue to keep you posted about these bills and other legislation affecting interpreters and language access.

CFI represents more than 800 court interpreters in California and is a unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild.



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Pacific Media Workers Guild

We are the Pacific Media Workers Guild, Local 39521 of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America. We represent more than 1,200 journalists and other media workers, interpreters, translators, union staffs and freelancers.