Interpreter Dispute: Hundreds Protest Across 7 Counties

More than 900 interpreters across seven Central California counties picketed this week to raise awareness about ongoing negotiations between the union for interpreters and the Administrative Office of the Courts, the management arm of the state judicial system, according to various media reports.
While gone more than a half-decade without a pay raise is noted, the core of the issue is another “outsourcing” cost-cutting plan. The idea is to use “centralized” remote video interpreting. This would often replace humans who make $35 per hour. They are paid by the state, but via the court system. The Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper explained that “… video remote interpreting uses video cameras, computers and an interpreter in a remote location to translate rather than having a live interpreter in court.” The paper cited a union spokesperson explaining that “… there is concern from interpreters that the video service would violate the right to due process and compromise attorney client privilege.” 
The talks continue today (Friday, Nov. 22) and there’s no speculation yet if other unions might join in any further actions. Read the Sentinel story here.

ADA Case Tackles Major Access Liability Issue

If a person with disabilities is denied access in violation of the state’s Disabled Persons Act (CDPA), should they receive compensation just once for the violation or for each time they encountered the violation? A Long Beach resident is arguing the later, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is asking the California State Supreme Court for help understanding an “ambiguous” law. The case involves a paraplegic who sued over improperly curb cut-outs, and he argues that he should be paid for each time he encountered the problem. A lower court ruled the other way, awarding $17,000; he says the number should be $440,000. 
The case might be seen as important in the wake of California court closures and cutbacks. One of the legal arguments against the changes is that people with disabilities are, in effect, denied access to the courthouses. As one observer noted: If they moved the wheelchair ramp across the parking lot, that would be a violation. So why not if they move it 25 miles away?” This case might imply that liability goes beyond a single penalty to include each time a person is denied access, a significant change.
As usual, Tim Hull at The Courthouse News makes the complex easy… read it here

Courthouse cutbacks create hardships for man with disabilities

By Sara Warner

ORIGINAL REPORTING: CCM publisher Sara Warner profiles Mr. Femi Collins, a disabled engineer who has become one of the L.A. County citizens impacted directly by closing of local courthouses.
Mr. Femi Collins, a disabled engineer who has become one of the L.A. County citizens impacted directly by closing of local courthouses. (Photo by Sara Warner)

Mr. Femi Collins, a disabled engineer who has become one of the L.A. County citizens impacted directly by closing of local courthouses. (Photo by Sara Warner)

When you are blind, the difference between 4 miles and 27 miles in Los Angeles can be dramatic. Here is Mr. Collins’ story.
Femi Collins came to the United States from Nigeria in 1973. He was seeking a better life for himself, his future American wife, and his future nine children. To Mr. Collins the United States offered a future free of political instability and equality for all under the law.

After graduating with a BS and MS from Cal Poly Pomona University, Mr. Collins pursued a career in Engineering.  With an advancing career as an engineer and a growing, supportive family, Mr. Collins personified the “American Dream” – until a disability changed his life.

[Read more…]

Report: ‘Sad State’ Of Courts Will Boost Arbitration

While noting that non-court arbitration has often been seen as anti-consumer, a report in the member-run news organization Voice of San Diego lays out a good argument that ongoing court cuts will boost the practice. It also cites a recent study noting that formerly routine business collection practices can take up to a year, making it difficult to do business in counties hard-hit by court delays.
“Historically, we have seen that people who want to tilt the playing field in their favor will use delay in the trial courts as a justification for that,” one official told the website. “It has less resonance where cases get to trial efficiently and quickly as they had up until this latest round of five years of budget cuts.”
We have already heard that justice system administrators are urging a “settle the case” approach to ease strain on the diminished system, and certainly arbitration is part of that rationing strategy. This is a good, balanced look at how that’s starting to play out: Read Here

Daily News Offers Good Story On Court Protests

Looking for a good handle on last week’s court protests? Then check out the L.A. Daily News. That’s news too, because the paper has not exactly led coverage on the issue; nothing like marching in the streets to draw the mainstream media. That said, staff writer Christina Villacorte does a good job outlining the issues  of a federal lawsuit, especially the arguments that the court changes violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA.
Villacorte also amplifies growing complaints that the court cuts took place in relative secrecy, reporting that “… The Save Our Courts Coalition, made up of community groups, religious organizations, legal aid providers, labor union and court employees, demanded that the Los Angeles Superior Court cancel the closures, hold public hearings at each of the affected courthouses and find other ways to balance its budget.”
A great get-up-to-speed link to send to your non-court-watching friends is right here. 

ADA Is Key To Court Re-Org Lawsuit

The Americans With Disabilities Act, or ADA, appears to be the heart of that complaint filed against state reorganization of its courts. The federal complaint, filed March 13, makes an argument that under the new system “… there will be no unlawful detainer courtrooms in the San Fernando Valley [so] tenants from the Valley will be forced to travel to either Santa Monica or Pasadena – areas to which there is no adequate public transportation route from the Valley.” Unlawful detainer is the term for eviction actions.
CCM staff photo

CCM staff photo

The complaint offers an example of a San Fernando Valley resident who now could access a courthouse six miles away but would have to travel some 30 miles to Santa Monica under the new system. The action, filed by a coalition of non-profits including a low-income housing group, notes that state law offers strict timelines for eviction cases and that lack of transportation might favor the landlords.
Read about the issue and access a copy of the full complaint here