Monday, July 24, 2006

Court Testing Multi-language Hotline

By Serena Maria Daniels
Signal Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Superior Court is testing a multi-language telephone hotline system to help non-English speakers while they conduct legal business.

As part of the County Resources Advisors 211 information line, people at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles will be able to pick up a blue-handled phone receiver to get court and county information and referrals in English and Spanish.

People requiring information in other languages will be connected with an interpreter. Operators of the 211 system have access to 140 other languages.

If the program is successful, more phones are expected to be installed in other courthouses throughout the county, including in Santa Clarita.

At the Santa Clarita courthouse, clerks handling traffic and criminal tickets must rely on bilingual colleagues to assist customers, said Mary Sanchez, a traffic supervisor.

While interaction with people who speak languages other than English or Spanish is rare, if someone does need help in other languages, they're often referred to the downtown court to arrange an interpreter, Sanchez said.

"Here at the window, unless it's Spanish, we won't have someone to help," said Sanchez, who was not familiar with the new phone system.

Using the telephone system could save customers days or weeks of searching for programs and services, Judge Charles McCoy, who supervises the court's civil department, said in a statement.

Sanchez said that regardless of whether an issue is simple or complex, it is comforting for people to know they can communicate with someone else in their own language.

"It makes things a lot easier," Sanchez said.

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