Saturday, April 08, 2006

Mexico immersion

By Sophia Voravong

Lafayette police officer Steve Prothero thanks a college friend from Mexico for giving him a better understanding of the Spanish language than he learned at school.

He still knows enough to communicate clearly with Hispanic and Latino residents during traffic stops or minor calls. But problems arise when the situation involves numerous witnesses who do not speak English.

"A lot of times, they'll grab a child for simple things," Prothero said. "But what parent is going to want to have their 7-year-old translate to say, 'My father hit my mom?' "

The Lafayette Police Department is attempting to bridge that communication gap and better serve Spanish-speaking residents by sending three of its officers south of the border April 15 to Cuernavaca, Mexico.

For three weeks, Prothero, Officer Aaron Lorton and Officer Grant Snyder will live with host families and go through an immersion program at Kukulcan Spanish Language School, designed for law enforcement. They'll only be allowed to speak "en Espanol."

"This is only going to make us stronger," said Prothero, who estimates that he uses Spanish to communicate at least once a night.

Aida Munoz, director of the Latino Coalition of Tippecanoe County, called the program a win-win situation. Spanish-speaking residents here often are afraid to speak with local police because they "don't understand the rules" of what to do when pulled over or stopped, she said.

"They might be able to understand the culture better once they come back to work with our people here," Munoz said.

"... People in Lafayette will trust officers better, I hope, because they will feel the officers are making an effort to help us."

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report released last August, Hispanic residents in Tippecanoe County accounted for 6.2 percent of the population and have grown by 20.6 percent during the last four years.

The goal of the immersion program is to help the three officers reach "interpreter" level -- in other words, be able to speak a second language in any context nearly flawlessly, Capt. Bruce Biggs said. LPD currently has one employee, a 911 radio dispatcher, who is bilingual.

If successful, the officers will serve as a "Bilingual Officer Unit," meaning they would be on-call at all times to help interpret as needed, Biggs said.

The program is being funded by a $10,000 grant from the Marquis Foundation and another $100 private donation given at the foundation's Crystal Ball held last October.

Lorton, who describes his current Spanish skills as "a working knowledge," said he hopes the program will make the department as a whole more proficient. The three men going to Mexico already have some knowledge of the language and often are called to assist officers, he said.

The immersion program will consist of a combination of academic exercises and formal and informal cultural activities.

"Being able to translate word for word in a court setting, being able to record statements, it will help a lot," Lorton said. "It's a little frightening going to a foreign country, but its an excellent opportunity for our department."

Citing the kidnapping of 8-year-old Jacqueline Ortiz in July 2004 -- where the mother spoke no English and dispatcher Nirvana Grant was called to assist -- Lorton said every minute counts in investigating such cases.

"If the victim doesn't speak English, we've lost 30 minutes, 45 minutes, waiting for a translator," he said. "The ability to have a translator on the scene can mean the difference. ... But the biggest asset is going to be community relations."

Munoz, who estimates that she gets at least one phone call a day from Spanish-speaking residents who have concerns of how to communicate with police, also advises them to learn more English and understand American culture.

Communication strides need to be made from both sides, she said.

"I, as a Latina, appreciate it very much," Munoz said of LPD's efforts. "I'm excited about this."

Translating from legalese

By Mariana Lamaison Sears
Free Press Staff Writer

April 8, 2006
How well do you know the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor, or superior and district court? What about the definition of plaintiff or arraignment?

Now imagine speaking English as a second language and trying to translate these words and others during a court proceeding.

Court interpreters in Vermont are often in that situation. Many of them are from other countries and have little formal legal background.

Vermont's judiciary is taking action to change that.

Last month, the Vermont Supreme Court held a training course for interpreters and translators to provide them with basic legal education. The course resulted from the recommendations of a report released in 2004 by the Supreme Court Committee on Fairness and Equal Access to Justice, Karen Richards said.

Richards, chairwoman of the subcommittee on court interpreters, said the report recognized the statewide growing diversity, the increased demand for court interpreters and the need to provide these individuals with basic legal training. She said the subcommittee has been working since 2004 to put the report's recommendations into action. Diverse backgrounds

Alma Halkic grew up in Bosnia. She has been working as a medical record translator in a community health center in Burlington for about six years. She said she has no legal background and has never done any court interpreting before, but was "hoping to learn legal terminology. This is a great opportunity."

Twenty-one people from diverse ethnic backgrounds attended 2 1/2-hour sessions on five consecutive Wednesday evenings at the Vermont District Court in Burlington. Maria Jakobeit, said she was most interested in learning about and discussing the ethics concerning interpreters in the court, "our role, our rights, what can we disclose," she said. Fluent in English, German and Spanish, Jakobeit said she has been translating in courts for five years.

One of the problems, she said, is translating for opposing litigants in the same case; something the interpreters sometimes have to do because there is not enough funding to hire two interpreters.

Interpreters can charge $20 to $70 an hour; the fees are not regulated. The court is responsible for providing someone who can translate the proceedings to all individuals present at the courtroom in criminal and civil cases.

Like most of the students, Halkic and Jakobeit were contacted and invited to participate in the five-week training course. Richards said she obtained databases from the Interpreter Task Force and the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, which works with translators and interpreters of about 35 languages.

Vermont is becoming more diverse and "the number of languages spoken is remarkable for a small state," said Jane Ann Miller, a member of Richards' subcommittee and a freelance Russian interpreter and translator. She said it is difficult to test interpreters for proficiency in many languages.

Richards said implementing some sort of language assessment system is the next step. She said Vermont is trying to partner with Maine and New Hampshire to join the National Center for State Courts. In doing so, Vermont would be able to access the center's oral and written language proficiency test, she said.

"There's been no criteria" to qualify interpreters, Richards said, and over the past year there were about 200 instances where interpreters were needed, most of them in Chittenden and Washington counties, she said.

Anyone skilled in a second language can become a court interpreter. The only requirement is to pass a background check conducted by the court.

Margaret Crowley, trial docket clerk at the Vermont District Court in Burlington, keeps the current list of Chittenden County interpreters. She said Bosnian and Vietnamese are the two languages most required by the court, as these are the two largest refugee communities of the state, but lately a variety of African languages have been required, too.

Richards said that those who completed the training probably will be the first ones to be called when the court needs interpreters. She said they also are hoping to offer the course in Montpellier and other parts of the state. Judges, lawyers and interpreters

Judge Edward Cashman was one of the volunteers teaching the training course. At a recent session, he explained the different steps of the criminal process through a practical example: a police officer stopping a motorist suspected of driving under the influence. Cashman explained each step in detail and defined the role of the players involved in the process, from the initial roadside investigation to the sentencing and appeal.

By the end of the session, participants discussed issues that concerned them. Hugo Martinez Cazon, a Spanish and Portuguese translator, said that when a foreigner is accused of a crime and taken to court, the state has to notify the consulate of the country of origin of the accused; something that has not been done, he said.

Cashman said the training is aimed at making interpreters comfortable within the court setting, but judges and lawyers need to be educated about the new challenges people from other cultures bring to the justice process and about the role of interpreters, too. He said interpreters are being looked at as "a source of information" about the things that need to be improved.

Judges and lawyers need to learn to speak slowly, be prepared for longer hearings and understand there are certain concepts that cannot be translated literally into another language, Cashman said. For instance, in Russian the concept of privacy does not exist, he said.

Jakobeit agrees. Sometimes "we are intimidated, lawyers go so fast," she said. The interpreters have no right whatsoever if they think the client is being underrepresented, she said.

"In Vermont, judges and lawyers are not very used to dealing with other nationalities," she said. "We do play an important role"

Zuma's HIV courtroom revelations

By Peter Biles
BBC southern Africa correspondent

South Africa's former deputy president, Jacob Zuma, is on trial for rape. It is alleged that he attacked a family friend, who is HIV positive. Mr Zuma denies the charge.

The nation has absorbed intimate details of what may or may not have happened on the night in question, some of which have appalled many local Aids activists.

Every morning at 0900, a convoy of luxury cars with blue lights flashing, sweeps into Pritchard Street in downtown Johannesburg.

They pull up outside the High Court - a granite, domed building, and men in black suits emerge from the vehicles.

Presidential-style, Jacob Zuma's bodyguards form a phalanx around his car, and then trot into the yard at the back of the court.

On the street outside, the diehard Zuma supporters cheer and sing, but are held back by the police.

During the five weeks since this trial began, their numbers have dwindled markedly.

This time last year, though, Mr Zuma was the second most powerful person in the land - deputy president of South Africa - and a strong contender to succeed Thabo Mbeki when he steps down in three years' time.

Mr Zuma certainly had many of the right credentials to lead this country.

He was a fighter in the ANC's liberation struggle, a prisoner on Robben Island for 10 years, and a former head of intelligence when the ANC was in exile.

Now though, Mr Zuma has suffered a dramatic fall from grace.

He is on trial for rape, with the details of his sex life splashed across the newspaper front pages day after day.

It is more than most people can stomach, but there is no respite.

We now know, at the very least, that Mr Zuma had unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman, half his age, who says she regarded him as a father figure.

She used to call him Malume - the Zulu word for uncle - because her late father and Mr Zuma were once comrades-in-arms.

The legal teams

Inside Court 4E, the atmosphere is always expectant.

There is no jury system in South Africa, and the sole arbiter in this case is Judge Willem Van Der Merwe, described by the press as a "courteous, anglicised Afrikaner".

He is best known as the man who sentenced the notorious apartheid assassin, Eugene de Kock, to multiple life terms for murder in 1996.

On the left hand side of the court, sits the prosecution team, led by Advocate Charin De Beer.

She is the one who subjected Jacob Zuma to two gruelling days of cross-examination.

She too, is Afrikaans. Her command of English is strong, but sometimes rather quaint.

At one stage, she put it to Mr Zuma that he had "tippy-toed" down the passage to see if the complainant was sleeping, shortly before the alleged rape.

Facing the judge is the Zuma defence team, headed by the Dickensian-looking Advocate Kemp J Kemp.

With his tangled mop of hair and ill-fitting legal attire, the papers call him "Unkempt Kemp".

But although he is a virtual stranger to criminal trials, he is no slouch, and is regarded as one of the best defence lawyers in the country.

Finally, there is Mr Zuma himself. First sitting in the dock, and then taking his seat on the witness stand when he was called to testify.

He chose to speak in Zulu, with the aid of a court translator, although it soon became clear that Mr Zuma's English may well be superior.

Frequently, he would lean over to assist the interpreter.

Zulu culture has featured rather heavily in this trial.

Mr Zuma is described by his followers as "the 100% Zulu Boy".

Expert knowledge

Under cross-examination, he was asked why he had taken the risk of having sexual intercourse with a woman who was HIV positive, when he had no condom available.
He explained unashamedly, that in accordance with Zulu tradition he had been brought up to understand that a man could not abandon a woman in a state of arousal, otherwise she might become infuriated, and accuse him falsely of rape.

In other words, he had had no choice but to carry on.

If that was not bad enough, Mr Zuma told the court he thought the risk from HIV was small, and that he had taken a shower immediately after the sexual intercourse on the night in question, because - he believed - it was one thing that might reduce the chances of contracting HIV.

These assertions came from the man who was head of the National Aids Council and the Moral Regeneration Campaign.

This is someone who should have expert knowledge of the threat of Aids in a country where more than five million people are HIV positive.

Local Aids activists and supporters of the complainant who have been picketing the court, have been horrified and outraged by Mr Zuma's comments.

They say it has set back South Africa's battle against HIV and Aids by many years.

One of the country's top cartoonists, Zapiro, summed it all up with a sketch about "The Jacob Zuma Moral DE-generation Handbook".

Under a code of ethics, is Point 3: "Before casual unprotected sex, remove brain and place on bedside table".

A ghost in the criminal justice machine

By Sarah Lynch
Efrain Martinez sits in a cell at the Durango Jail dressed like a criminal in a black-and-white -striped jumpsuit even though he says he committed no crime. Thirty-one days have passed since the 32-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrant arrived at the Maricopa County jail, accused of shooting a gun at former Mesa council candidate JT Ready. Ready, a concealed-weapons instructor and anti-immigration activist, says he shot back in self-defense. Martinez, who gave a different name when arrested, denies the allegations and said that parts of the story he told police were lost in translation.

On April 20 at 2 p.m., both men will face off again when Martinez goes before a judge to fight the charges of assault and threatening and intimidation.

Martinez's account of the March 9 incident differs drastically from the story that Ready told police and the media during a news conference he held several days before the election.

Martinez was charged based on Ready's version of events - police said Martinez's story was inconsistent. But Martinez thinks police misunderstood him because of the language barrier.

The incident has raised eyebrows about the way police handled the investig- ation. They interviewed him in English even though Martinez says he cannot "speak, write or read" the language well. He even told the officer before the interview that he could not speak English well.

"There are obviously a lot of disparities in the facts of the case, and no one knows what happened and everyone has a motivation to lie," said Garrett Smith, an attorney who is being paid $165 to defend Martinez. "It is very important to get the right story here."

Martinez says he's been in the United States for five years. He left California at the beginning of this year and came to Arizona in search of construction jobs.

For the first time since he was arrested, Martinez agreed to share his story. The Tribune interviewed him twice in Spanish recently at the Durango Jail.

Ready has told police that he saw Martinez emerge from a red truck full of Hispanic passengers, point a gun at him and pull the trigger.

He said he shot back with his gun and called 911.

Although he admits having a BB gun, Martinez has repeatedly denied pointing or shooting it.

He said he was at a park shooting at plastic bottles with a BB gun he had recently purchased at Wal-Mart.

He was not with a large group as Ready suggested, but was walking by himself.

He also said he was not traveling with the people in the red truck. He said he doesn't know them and that they approached him to ask for directions.

Then he saw Ready's car approaching. It appeared to be following the truck. Martinez said Ready emerged from his car and fired a shot at the truck.

Martinez said he ran away and sought help from the red truck, but the driver wouldn't stop. He called out for help in broken English to a police officer, he says.

Police pulled over the red truck, which had about 10 people inside, according to police reports. They searched for weapons and when they found none, they let everyone go. They were not questioned, although the driver told police she did not know Martinez - a claim that could have corroborated a portion of Martinez's story.

A DVD of the interview between detective Kevin Albrecht and Martinez begins with Martinez telling the officer that he can't speak English very well. Albrecht tells him he'll get a translator if necessary and that he just wants to ask some questions. Albrecht also tells him there are no charges at this point.

The officer reads Martinez his rights. Martinez says he doesn't understand, and asks to see the card. He reads aloud the first line, then appears to mouth through the rest. At the end, he repeats back the last line on the card.

The officer and Martinez are able to have a conversation. Martinez speaks with limited English, frequently mixing Spanish words into his phrases. At times he says phrases in English, and other times he reverts into Spanish.

He uses his hands a lot to tell the story and makes sound effects.

In the interviews with the Tribune, Martinez says he believes his rights were violated.

He says he didn't even know the charges against him. He thought he was being detained because he's in the country illegally, and because he had a BB gun.

"If you don't speak Spanish, and I speak Spanish, you're only going to say 'Yes, yes, yes,' " Martinez said in Spanish.

Police say the detective who conducted the interview was confident in Martinez's English abilities.

"The detective was asking him questions and he was giving them answers," said Sgt. Chuck Trapani. "He believed Martinez understood his questions because the responses to the questions were reasonable."

However, in a police report, Albrecht writes that he decided to interview Martinez even though "I discovered (Martinez) was a Spanish speaker, but he did speak some English."

"There were no Spanish-speaking detectives available so I continued with the interview," Albrecht wrote.

Smith intends to make a motion to have that interview scratched from the record.

"The fact they don't have an interpreter is not an excuse here," Smith said. "There are plenty on the force (who speak Spanish) and it seems like the whole thing was just rushed."

Police also would not let Martinez look up anyone's number in his cell phone to make his phone call, both Martinez and police say. Prisoners are allowed access to phone books, but there is no set rule about allowing prisoners to look up numbers in their phones, police said.

Martinez did not have any numbers memorized, and even now, he said his family, friends and his girlfriend still don't know he's in jail.

Stephen Montoya, an attorney specializing in civil liberties, said Mesa should be concerned about the way police handled this investigation regardless of whether Martinez is telling the truth.

"This should be a lesson to the city of Mesa," he said. "If they don't want valid criminal cases to be thrown out of court by a judge, then they should make sure that police officers are available who speak Spanish."

Martinez was charged under the name of Eduardo Godina. But he says that was the name he gave police because it was the name on papers he had purchased on the street.

Police say they ran his fingerprints and the prints came back under a different name. They have not amended the complaint to charge him under a name other than Eduardo Godina.

After serving 18 days in jail, Martinez finally was given a lawyer. He was offered a chance to plead guilty in exchange for serving only two more days.

He refused, not because he knew he'd be deported, but because he wants to clear his name.

His desire to go to trial outweighs enduring countless days of meager meals, uncomfortable living quarters and above all, a place where he says he's nothing more than a "fantasma" - a ghost.

"I say that if they want to convict me for telling the truth, then let them convict me," he said.

Martinez's desire to go to trial is a decision that Ready can't understand, but he is more than willing to testify.

"What is really his motivation of doing that?" Ready asked. "That doesn't make sense. He was caught red-handed."

Martinez described himself as a tranquil person without a criminal record, saying he's never tried to hurt anyone.

Martinez makes no excuses about how he got to the United States. He purchased false papers so he could work.

While Martinez does not want to get deported, he's also not interested in becoming a citizen. He hopes to return to Mexico one day to be with his family.

"I respect this country," he added. "It has opportunities that you don't have in Mexico to obtain a better life."

If anything, the entire incident has provoked a lot of soul-searching.

Martinez, who is Catholic, says he prays each night before he goes to sleep in the jail.

"I say to God, 'What has become of my life?' " Martinez said with a sigh.

"I can't get it through my head. I'm not guilty of the things they're accusing me of."

He has no money to post bail. He can't even afford to buy stamps and write a letter to tell his family where he is.

Eduardo Godina exists only on a piece of paper.

And now, Efrain Martinez doesn't exist, either.

He says the suitcase he left in his shared apartment on Vineyard in Mesa contained his birth certificate, a Mexican passport and a second cell phone with the numbers of his girlfriend, his 6-year-old daughter and his sister in Los Angeles.

Other residents of the complex say the couple Martinez lived with have moved since he was jailed, and the suitcase went with them.

When the new tenants moved into the apartment about two weeks ago, there was no trace of a man named Efrain Martinez.

He had become a ghost.

In about two weeks when he meets his accuser once again, he hopes to finally assert his identity.

Ready's Story

• Saw some Latinos jumping fences, hiding behind bushes and driving in a red truck with its lights off

• Called a nonemergency number to report suspicious activity

• Saw Martinez get in the red truck

• Followed truck to a dead-end road

• Martinez got out, truck drove off, and Martinez pointed a gun

• Ready jumped out of his moving vehicle, Martinez fired, Ready returned fire

• Ready dialed 911

• Martinez ran away

Martinez's story

• Was shooting plastic bottles in a park with his BB gun

• Was by himself

• Did not know people in the red truck, wasn't riding in the truck

• Truck stopped to ask for directions

• Ready's car turned down the street in pursuit of the truck

• Ready jumped out of the car and fired a gun

• Martinez got scared and ran away, tried to call for help

Friday, April 07, 2006

USA: Guantánamo pre-trial military commission proceedings

Wednesday 5th April 2006

Amnesty International’s trial observations

Pre-trial hearings before military commissions at Guantánamo are going ahead despite a pending Supreme Court decision on their legality. A representative of Amnesty International is observing the hearings. A summary of Amnesty International’s initial findings from yesterday’s proceedings are below.

The hearings: lack of appropriate translation

On 4 April the commission panel began hearing arguments in the case of Abdul Zahir, an Afghan national who is facing a number of conspiracy charges, including involvement with a group of people alleged to have thrown a hand grenade into a car carrying journalists.

The lack of appropriate translations, a problem that has plagued the proceedings from the beginning, presented itself again on the first day of this round of hearings. Military Commission Order No. 1 states that “The prosecution shall furnish to the Accused, sufficiently in advance of trial to prepare a defence, a copy of the charges in English and, if appropriate, in another language the Accused understands.” (5(A)). Abdul Zahir is a Farsi speaker yet the charges were read to him only in English, Arabic and Pashtu. No Farsi interpreters were available to interpret for Abdul Zahir and, in circumvention of the commission’s own rules, the defendant’s own translator was requested to act as both court translator and interpreter for the accused. Both the Chief Prosecutor and the Office of Military Commissions spokesperson were questioned on this issue, but neither could account for the absence of a Farsi interpreter. Amnesty International is deeply concerned that, two years after identifying Zahir as eligible for trial by military commission and two months after he was charged, commission authorities were not able to make an appropriate translator available.

Evidence obtained under torture

On March 24, four days before the Supreme Court was to hear a challenge to the military commissions in the Hamdan case , the Department of Defense issued Military Commission Instruction 10. This instruction purports to exclude statements or information obtained through torture from being admitted as evidence. However, due to the US government’s limited definition of what constitutes torture, the ban falls far short of the requirements of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment.

When asked about how this rule would be put into practice in the military commission process, the Chief Prosecutor Col. Morris Davis stated that the prosecution would make an initial determination, and the defence could argue that determination. If the prosecution and defence are unable to agree they would be able to take the issue before the presiding officer who would decide if the information would be probative to “the reasonable person” and meet the “full and fair” trial standard created for the military commission. Col. Davis then pointed out that a detainee claiming that the evidence used against him was obtained under torture may use many layers of appeals that could go up to the Supreme Court.

Col. Dwight Sullivan, the Chief Defense Counsel for the Office of Military Commissions, was asked the same question but had a rather different answer. He pointed out that the military commissions system does not include any of the standard rules of evidence that prohibit hearsay and guarantee the accused the right to confront the allegations against them. As a result, evidence obtained through torture could be introduced through hearsay or by submitting a statement made by a person in custody, for example other Guantánamo detainees. The defence may not be able to question how the statement was obtained, its credibility or the condition of the person who made it.

Under the Detainee Treatment Act passed by Congress in December 2005, any detainee sentenced to 10 years or more can challenge in appeal whether or not the commissions proceedings complied with their procedures, which now include an instruction purportedly banning evidence obtained through torture. However, for anyone sentenced to less than 10 years, the appeal is only discretionary and does not have to be granted.

Amnesty International continues to observe the proceedings at Guantánamo.

100% Zuluboy

A story is told about how, in the early 1990s, a recently released African National Congress leader addressing a crowd at a Durban township was laughed at and teased. It was not out of disrespect. “He sounded like Inkatha,” was the explanation for the banter.

Decoded, sounding like Inkatha meant that his Zulu betrayed his rural upbringing and probable revisionist tendencies.

This week, the second-most-senior ANC leader, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, cast the potential ignominy of “sounding like Inkatha” aside to deliver his testimony in Zulu. It was the type of language that would have had him laughed at by the KwaMashu youth.

Having being declared by his foes according to the disputed hoax e-mails to be “the Zulu boy”, but embraced by his supporters as “100% Zuluboy”, Zuma has gone back to his KwaNxamalala village roots.

Language was not to be Zuma’s only weapon in the Johannesburg High Court, where he is fighting charges that he raped a 31-year-old family friend. He invoked the culture and spoke in an idiom that would make language activists proud.

He told Judge Willem van der Merwe that the very charge of rape was a result of having acted in accordance with what he had been taught as a youngster growing up in Nkandla, in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Zuma, who has denied the rape charge, saying the sex was consensual, this week told the court that he had been taught that “leaving a woman in that state [of sexual arousal]” was the worst thing a man could do.

“She could even have you arrested and charged with rape.” It has proven to be one lesson he might have to revisit because he was charged with rape regardless of having taken the “precaution”.

Zuma doggedly stuck to his version of events despite being on the witness stand for four days. He insisted that the sex had happened in his bedroom and not, as per his accuser’s version, in the guest bedroom.

Unlike his accuser, who appeared to crack under cross-examination, Zuma remained collected and affable throughout.

Zuma’s Zulu at times had the court interpreter finding himself having to be corrected for having missed the nuance or the correct meaning of a word. Addressing the judge as ’nkos’-yenkantolo (king of the court), Zuma waited for even the most mundane English phrases to be translated into isiZulu before responding.

By the time the state had finished its cross-examination on Thursday, Zuma had done his bit for the language of his ancestors.

He referred to his accuser’s private parts as isibhaya sika bab’wakhe — her father’s kraal. And admitted to entering this kraal without ijazi ka mkhwenyana — the groom/husband’s coat, known to non-Zulu speakers as a condom.

Asked by a doubtful prosecutor, Charin de Beer, how he could have wanted to pay lobola for a woman with whom he did not have a love relationship, Zuma again invoked isiZulu.

“There are times in isiZulu culture that you could pay lobola for a woman you have never seen even ka Madala ejudeni [at Madala, the Jew’s corner shop],” he said, using a Zulu phrase to emphasise never having laid eyes on a person before.

Zuma’s daughter, Duduzile, took the stand on Thursday and testified in English, mentioning that her father normally conversed with her in English.

She told the court that she had been suspicious of Zuma’s accuser from the onset. “Woman’s intuition,” she gave as the reason for her uneasiness.

She said that when her father introduced the complainant as an old comrade’s daughter, she knew that the complainant was at the Zuma home “to sponge off my dad. Old comrades’ children are always looking for help,” she said.

Duduzile added that she suspected that the complainant was out to “seduce” her father.

Under cross-examination, she said she did not warn her father of her suspicions because in Zulu culture, it was not the done thing to discuss sex-related matters with one’s parents.

Duduzile told the court that the complainant was “practically half naked” when she went to Zuma’s study. This, though the complainant wore a sarong covering her breasts and knees.

“I thought it was inappropriate for her to dress like that when she was a guest at someone else’s house,” she said.

The trial continues, with Zuma, his family and supporters hoping that Duduzile’s sentiments on hearing of the rape charges — “I thought it is another hurdle we need to go over” — are correct.

Zuma culture, not Zulu culture
Professor Silawu Ngubane – University of KwaZulu-Natal academic: “Our culture is not written and there are no books that we can go back to for reference on such issues. JZ’s statement on Zulu culture is new to me. I’m not aware of such a thing in Zulu culture. I’m not dismissing it but, I’m just not aware of it.

“What I know is that in Zulu culture a girl must show respect and appreciation to the elders and remain obedient.”

Nomagugu Ngobese — traditional healer and cultural activist: “In Zulu culture, the complainant shouldn’t have been in Zuma’s bedroom at night. She shouldn’t have dressed as they say she was and shouldn’t have asked JZ to rub her body. Rubbing somebody’s body symbolises love and I believe that these two people enjoyed each other.

“We the Zulus are very respectful and what the complainant has done is a sign of disrespect towards older people. Firstly, she invaded Zuma’s privacy, and secondly she tarnished his character. How can she say JZ raped her? If I were Zuma I would file for rape against the complainant. We are tired of people who use other people’s names for their own malicious gains.”

Professor David Copland – University of the Witwatersrand anthropologist: “Regardless of culture, most men could have reacted as JZ did but his culture statement is of macho ideology and most Zulus are proud of it.

“People shouldn’t use culture to protect their deeds because culture varies from person to person. Someone would say this about culture while the other could say the opposite.

“As human beings we should also not do things that are offensive to others because they are culturally permitted where we come from and not seen as bad things.”

Father Joe Mdhlela — South African Council of Churches: “Our African cultures uphold respect. However, these cultures should not determine how we apply this respect.

“Culture should not be used to violate other people’s rights as it has been used in the past to degrade women.

“No matter how scantily a woman is dressed, we need to treat them with all the respect and not use culture to oppress them.

“We should make sure not to use culture to impose ourselves on others and we also need to revise culture when it becomes offensive.”

A prominent Zulu cultural activist who preferred to remain anonymous: “What Jacob Zuma and the complainant did is not Zulu culture but Zuma culture. Zulu culture tells us to respect each other and I don’t think JZ showed any respect to the complainant nor to himself. At this point Zulu culture failed but Zuma culture conquered.

“I also understand that when JZ spoke about culture in court he did it in Zulu but the reports that we get are in English. Journalists should be careful not to translate false messages to us. They should not change the context of the messages because this can give people a wrong impression about JZ.”

Dr Mathole Motshekga — advocate of the high court/cultural expert: “He is completely correct [to base his argument on culture] because South Africa interprets human rights through Europeanised views, that’s why there’s a problem.

“He is correct because our cultures play an important role of informing the society about its own cultural and moral values.

“Human rights don’t fall from heaven but are products of this world and need to be observed thoroughly.” — Additional reporting by Monako Dibetle

NZ Parliament to hear sign language bill

The deaf community will be hoping their voices will be heard in parliament on Thursday when the house decides whether to make New Zealand sign language an official language.

Victoria University deaf studies lecturer Karen Pointon has been deaf since birth and teaching sign language is her way of getting more people to spread the visual word.

Historically, sign language wasn't recognised in any way and in schools the deaf children signed to each other, but as soon as they were in the class it was hands under your legs. We weren't allowed to use sign language we were only taught through speech which was really hard," she says.

But on Thursday a parliamentary vote may give New Zealand sign language the thumbs up, making it the country's third official language.

Maori received official recognition and Pointon says both languages share a similar past.

"Maori language and sign language do have some parallels between them. They've both suffered oppression through history. Both have their own cultures which have been oppressed so the recognition of New Zealand sign language as an official language is going to give the deaf community a great sense of pride," says Pointon.

According to the Office for Disability Issues, of the 210,000 deaf or hearing impaired people in the country around 28,000 use New Zealand sign language. As sign languages are not universal NZSL is unique, incorporating signs that express concepts from Maori culture.

Recognition as an official language will increase access of those who use it to justice, education, health and employment services. The justice system is the first area where interpreters will need to be provided.

"When people are arrested or go through the court proceedings or have dealings with the prison service...they really do have to have an interpreter in their own language," says Minister for Disabilities Issues, Ruth Dyson.

But there are still hurdles to overcome.

Jennifer Brain of the Deaf Foundation says the biggest problem is the lack of interpreters at present.

However, if New Zealand sign language does become officially recognised in parliament, it may provide the impetus to satisfy that demand.

Judge orders restaurant worker to learn English

Easton resident convicted in beating. Man was to get anger therapy, but there was a language barrier.

The Express-Times

Judge Edward G. Smith said he wanted Pi Chang Chen to undergo anger management counseling but realized the Chinese immigrant spoke little English and would not benefit from the classes without an interpreter. He then ordered that Chen learn to speak English before taking the classes.

"I want you to learn how to speak English," Smith told Chen through an interpreter.

Smith also sentenced Chen, 27, to 1½ years of probation and to pay restitution to the victim, who was not named in court papers. The victim was in court Thursday and told Smith through an interpreter that she did not want Chen to go to jail.

Through the interpreter, Chen told Smith that he is dating the victim and plans to marry her someday. He said both of them work at Ho-Ho-Wok Restaurant for about 12 hours a day, six days a week.

"That's a lot of work," Smith said.

Police were called to the restaurant in the 800 block of South 25th Street at 8:46 p.m. Oct. 4 for a report of a fight in the back of the building. When police arrived they saw Chen strike the victim in the face and slam her into a brick wall, police said.

The victim said through the interpreter that she was taken by ambulance to an area hospital for X-rays. She told Smith she believed the bill was $3,000 and she was seeking restitution. Smith said the restitution amount would be set when the exact amount of the bill was determined.

Chen, of the 1100 block of Lehigh Street, Easton, pleaded guilty to charges of simple assault and disorderly conduct. In exchange, prosecutors withdrew a charge of harassment.

Chen apologized for the attack through his interpreter.

"I'm sorry. I won't do it again," he said.

Deaf students sue over fee for driver's ed interpreter

ST. CLOUD, Minn. - A group of deaf teenagers are suing five driving schools in central Minnesota, claiming the schools violated federal and state human rights laws by refusing to provide sign language interpreters.

The teenagers' families, some of whom have spent thousands of dollars to hire their own interpreters, say they are seeking justice for all deaf kids.

"I hope we win the case," said Heather Breitbach, a deaf 16-year-old. "But I also hope a new law gets established so all future deaf kids can take driver's ed with an interpreter and not have to fight in court about it."

Breitbach and four other deaf teenagers filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis last week. It seeks a minimum of nearly $300,000 in punitive and compensatory damages.

School owners say they want to do the right thing, but the cost is high -- as much as 10 times the cost of the course. Since the suit was filed at least two schools have said they will begin paying for interpreters.

The teens' attorneys claim state and federal laws make such accommodations mandatory.

"Since many public schools no longer offer driver's education, convincing private driver's education schools to provide interpreters has become a recurrent issue," said Bruce Hodek, director of the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Services Division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

The U.S. Department of Justice settled a similar case against a Wisconsin driving school in 1999. In that case, Wold Driving School of Wausau was found in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and ordered to reimburse a deaf student for interpreter costs.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Magistrate Testifies in Extortion Case

HARARE Civil Court resident magistrate Ms Memory Chigwaza yesterday testified in the matter in which two magistrates and a court interpreter are facing charges of allegedly extorting $8 million from a female complainant.

Ms Chigwaza told the court that before the judgment and after the arrest of magistrate Ronald Muradzikwa and interpreter Thomas Tshuma, the complainant, Dorothy Mutekede, came to her office claiming to be a security agent on duty. Mutekede then said she wanted to see magistrate Godfrey Unzemoyo arrested if he failed to pass judgment in her favour. "She came to me saying she was carrying out her investigations although she did not produce her identity card," said Ms Chigwaza. She added that Unzemoyo reported to her that Mutekede was still pestering him to corruptly pass a judgment favourable to her, threatening him with arrest. Even after the judgment on March 1, she said, Mutekede allegedly expressed her bitterness over the $4 million that she was awarded monthly instead of the $50 million she wanted. Allegations against Unzemoyo, Muradzikwa and Tshuma arose from March 5 this year, when Mutekede went to the Harare Civil Courts intending to fill in the maintenance claim forms.

She was allegedly approached by Tshuma, who is alleged to have browsed through her claim form that indicated the claim as $50 million monthly. It is alleged that Tshuma told Mutekede that she was not going to get the $50 million unless she paid him and his colleague, Muradzikwa. Mutekede allegedly paid the two $8 million and after three weeks, the duo allegedly went to Mutekede's flat in the Avenues area with the cash. It is alleged that they had realised that the ruling was not going to be in her favour and they intended to refund her. A trap was set by the police resulting in the arrest of Muradzikwa and Tshuma while handing the $8 million back to Mutekede.

Magistrate Testifies in Extortion Case

HARARE Civil Court resident magistrate Ms Memory Chigwaza yesterday testified in the matter in which two magistrates and a court interpreter are facing charges of allegedly extorting $8 million from a female complainant.

Ms Chigwaza told the court that before the judgment and after the arrest of magistrate Ronald Muradzikwa and interpreter Thomas Tshuma, the complainant, Dorothy Mutekede, came to her office claiming to be a security agent on duty. Mutekede then said she wanted to see magistrate Godfrey Unzemoyo arrested if he failed to pass judgment in her favour. "She came to me saying she was carrying out her investigations although she did not produce her identity card," said Ms Chigwaza. She added that Unzemoyo reported to her that Mutekede was still pestering him to corruptly pass a judgment favourable to her, threatening him with arrest. Even after the judgment on March 1, she said, Mutekede allegedly expressed her bitterness over the $4 million that she was awarded monthly instead of the $50 million she wanted. Allegations against Unzemoyo, Muradzikwa and Tshuma arose from March 5 this year, when Mutekede went to the Harare Civil Courts intending to fill in the maintenance claim forms.

She was allegedly approached by Tshuma, who is alleged to have browsed through her claim form that indicated the claim as $50 million monthly. It is alleged that Tshuma told Mutekede that she was not going to get the $50 million unless she paid him and his colleague, Muradzikwa. Mutekede allegedly paid the two $8 million and after three weeks, the duo allegedly went to Mutekede's flat in the Avenues area with the cash. It is alleged that they had realised that the ruling was not going to be in her favour and they intended to refund her. A trap was set by the police resulting in the arrest of Muradzikwa and Tshuma while handing the $8 million back to Mutekede.

Position Announcement

Superior Court of California, County of Orange is now recruiting for COURT INTERPRETERS to work at any of our seven justice centers. These locations include Santa Ana, Orange, Fullerton, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, and Newport Beach.

Court Interpreters provide essential public service and assist with non-English speaking parties that come to the Court. Become a valuable asset to the court system and join our team!

We offer a great compensation package that includes 13 paid holidays, Retirement Plan (2.7% at 55), Dental and Vision among others. Come join the third largest trial court in California!

This recruitment is seeking Spanish/English and Vietnamese/English interpreters. However, if you are certified in another language (i.e. Mandarin etc), we encourage you to apply for future opportunities.

This recruitment will be open on a continuous basis until the needs of the Court are met.


INSURANCE PLANS: Choice of four medical plans, two HMO’s and two PPO’s. Court pays 95% premium for full-time employee only coverage and subsidizes approximately 75% of premium for dependents; also choice of vision plan, life insurance, dental, accidental death and dismemberment.

RETIREMENT: Defined Benefit, fully-qualified plan based on the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 (Government Code Section 31450 et. al.). Employee and Court contributions are based on several variables including age, hire date, and salary. The plan is administered by an independent agency, Orange County Employees Retirement System, and has reciprocity with PERS. Retirement benefit amount: 1/60th of average monthly compensation times years of service credit times factor based on age; effective July 1, 2005 formula will increase to 1/50th for new retirees (2.7%@55). See OCERS website for more information.

DEFERRED COMPENSATION: Optional deferred contribution 457 plan.

VACATION ACCRUAL: 0-3 years accrue 80 hours per year for full-time employees. After 3 years, full-time employees accrue 120 hours per year. After 10 years of service, full-time employees accrue 160 hours of vacation per year.

HOLIDAYS: 13 paid holidays per year.

SICK LEAVE: 0-3 years accrue 72 hours of sick time per year as full-time employees. After 3 years, full-time employees accrue 96 hours per year.

BEREAVEMENT LEAVE: Not to exceed 3 days paid leave per qualifying instance. Under certain instances, employee may qualify for two additional days.

UMEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE: Court pays into county administered insurance fund.

OVERTIME: Court pays overtime (time and a half) for all hours over 40 hours per week.

WORKER’S COMPENSATION: Provided pursuant to Labor Code.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Eight (8) hours of paid leave per fiscal year shall be granted to attend approved, necessary courses, subject to availability of funds.

Provisions are subject to terms: Memorandum of Understanding

Possess and maintain a valid Certificate as a “Certified Court Interpreter” issued by the Judicial Council of California on behalf of the State of California, or registered as a Court Interpreter by the Judicial Council of California on behalf of the State of California.

Possess a valid California driver’s license at the time of appointment or the ability to utilize an alternative method of transportation when needed to carry out job-related essential functions.

The screening and selection process will consist of a qualifying evaluation of training and experience provided in the completed application materials. The more highly qualified applicants may be scheduled for an interview after being placed on the eligible list.

Only on-line applications with a completed supplemental questionnaire will be accepted. Résumés in lieu of application will not be accepted. Questions about this recruitment may be directed to Harrison Lau at (714) 834-5336. You will be notified by email through the site if placed on the eligible list. Some email accounts have been known to place these emails in the spam/junk file. Please check your email folders or accept emails ending with

State vows to provide interpreter as needed

Blethen Maine Newspapers

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has resolved a 9-year-old complaint by pledging to provided trained interpreters at no cost to people with limited English skills who receive child welfare, Medicaid and other social services.

In an agreement approved March 20, the agency commits to assessing the language needs of each DHHS client and informing them of their right to a spoken-language interpreter or written translation of documents.

The department also agreed to tighten its rules about using friends or family members instead of professional interpreters, especially discouraging the use of minor children.

The agreement reaffirms changes to DHHS policies that were developed since the 1997 complaint was filed, said Lynn Kippax, spokesman for the department. Although the agreement does not include an admission that the state violated federal law in the past, Kippax acknowledged that there had been a problem.

"One can infer that there was something to consider here," he said. "As Maine grows in diversity, DHHS has to be responsive."

The resolution is signed by acting DHHS Commissioner Brenda Harvey and the regional manager of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights. It is the result of a complaint filed in 1997 by activist Kathy Poulos-Minott.

Nine years ago, Poulos-Minott worked as a contractor who provided parental education to parents who were engaged in child protective cases. In some cases, she realized that the parents she was supposed to be teaching could not understand the information she was trying to impart.

"I would stare at the mother and she would stare back at me," she recalled. "Then I would hand her the clipboard and have her sign that she had received the services."

Poulos-Minott has filed five other complaints since then in Maine, as well as others in other states through an organization called the National Limited English Proficiency Task Force.

The group sends non-English-speaking "testers " into government and social service agencies to see if they receive the interpretation services required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There are pending complaints against the Maine state court system, the Lewiston schools and Mercy Hospital.

Complaints made against Maine Medical Center and Catholic Charities Maine have been resolved with agreements to provide language services.

Advocates for non-English speakers say that there have been few services for DHHS clients even after their language policies were implemented.

Maria Cron, an immigration advocate and qualified Spanish-language interpreter who lives in Portland, said she has seen people denied language services within the last year. She said intake workers often try to make people understand English rather than provide an interpreter.

"What they do is yell," Cron said. "Then they talk slow. Then they tell them to come back with an interpreter, which is like asking a handicapped person to bring their own ramp."

Often telephone interpretation service is offered, but Cron said that does not work as well as a live interpreter because it can't pick up on nonverbal cues. A client may agree orally to something, but facial expressions will show he or she does not understand.

A family member may have a conflict of interest. She said accused batterers have been asked to interpret for their wives in domestic-violence situations.

Ricky Ho interprets in Vietnamese, Chinese and Khmer and said that because of the sensitive issues involved in social service settings, people sometimes say they prefer having a friend or family member interpret for them. He said that can be dangerous because of the specialized vocabulary needed.

English Only Bill in Ohio

To enact section 5.15 of the Revised Code to require 1
the use of the English language by state and local 2
government entities in official actions and 3
proceedings, subject to certain exceptions. 4


State provides free translation

BARNSTABLE - On Wednesdays, Teresa Oliveira dashes from courtroom to courtroom at Barnstable District Court.

She clutches a calendar, pens and a briefcase that contains, among other things, a Portuguese-English dictionary. Although fluent in both languages and certified by the state as a court interpreter, Oliveira wants no margin for error.

She knows the crucial role interpreters play in helping non-English speakers wend their way through life in a new country. She is especially sensitive to the fear and anxiety that immigrants - legal or not - face in the court system.

''What bothers me most is that there are people taking advantage of immigrants who do not speak English,'' she said. ''They charge to accompany them to court and sometimes try to rush them through the process. The state provides these services for free.''

The increased number of Brazilian immigrants on the Cape - up to 15,000 by some estimates - has seen a comparable increase in Portuguese-speaking people coming into court, particularly district courts in Orleans, Falmouth and Barnstable, where traffic violations are handled. Often, non-English speakers are accompanied by relatives or friends who offer to translate. Some judges allow that, depending upon the seriousness of the case.

More and more judges, however, rely on the Office of Court Interpreter Services, a state agency that offers free interpretive services in the state's 140 court divisions, including superior, district, juvenile, housing, probate and family courts.

Twenty-two of the certified interpreters are full-time staffers. The remaining 180, like Oliveira, are paid $250 a day and reimbursed for mileage.

Last year, the office provided services in 83,000 court encounters, including civil and criminal cases, arraignments and trials, magistrate's hearings and probation inquiries.

It offers interpreters in 35 languages.

Statewide, the biggest call is for Spanish. Portuguese is a distant second, followed by Vietnamese, Khmer (Cambodian), Chinese, Cape Verdean, Haitian, Russian and American Sign Language. The office also has contacts with speakers of more obscure languages.

Cape court officials say Portuguese interpreters are the most commonly needed on Cape Cod.

Certified interpreters are trained and tested by the state, and they must adhere to a code of conduct that requires neutrality and fairness. They are prohibited, even when asked, to give advice or recommend attorneys.

The call for court interpreters used to be low on the Cape and Islands. And finding an interpreter was sometimes an ordeal that delayed hearings and frustrated participants.

That has changed, partly because of the Cape's growing Brazilian population and because court officials feared some people were getting bad advice from untrained or noncertified interpreters.

''In simple cases, or a case I'm going to dismiss, there isn't so much a need for an interpreter, particularly if someone has brought along a friend or a relative,'' Falmouth District Judge Michael Creedon. ''If there's any risk of jail or deportation, then an interpreter is imperative.''

At first, there were occasional requests for Spanish interpreters, Creedon said. Now, it's more often for Portuguese, although the need is not as frequent in Falmouth as in Barnstable, he said. ''And, we've had the need for Vietnamese and Cambodian interpreters on a couple of lobster poaching cases.''

In 2005, Falmouth District Court made about 45 requests for interpreters. Already since January, there have been 35 requests, and Creedon anticipates more.

''We have the advantage that our chief probation officer here, Robert Teixeira, speaks Portuguese,'' he said. ''But we can't use him all the time. Primarily we will use him to explain that a court hearing is being rescheduled for a date when we can have a translator here.''

In Barnstable District Court it is not unusual to have 10 or more cases a week that require a Portuguese interpreter. Court clerk William Eldridge and his assistants try to schedule cases involving Portuguese speakers for Wednesday. On that day, one interpreter might handle up to 20 different cases.

Of course, there's always opportunity for a linguistic curveball, like the time clerk Susan Moulaison had to request a speaker of Gujarati, a language from the center-west part of India.

''That was a new one for us,'' she said. ''The state had someone for us, though.''

''We have rigorous testing both oral and written that our interpreters must go through,'' said Gaye Gentes, manager of the Office of Court Interpretive Services.

''Sometimes in immigrant communities there is a tendency to rely on people from within that community for interpretations and that does not always serve an individual best. We try to get the word out through churches, community leaders and community groups that our services are free, that our interpreters are specially trained and tested.''

Karen Jeffrey can be reached at

Monday, April 03, 2006

United States: Health Care and Limited English Proficiency Patients

Article by Mary Re Knack and Jennifer M. Gannon

According to the United States census taken in 2000, there are 44 milion persons who speak a language other than English at home, and over 19 milion of these persons- 7.5 percent of the total U.S. population- classify their English-speaking ability as "less than 'very well''. See U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Profile of Selected Social Characteristics: 2000, at: bm=y&-geojd=01 OOOUS&-quame=ACS- C2SSEST - GOO- OT02&-ds_name=ACS- C2SS_EST - GOO_.

It is likely that every health care provider in the United States has treated, or wil treat, one of these persons. The Department of Health and Human Services ("DHHS") defines these persons as having a Limited English Proficiency ("LEP").

Federal law requires all federally funded health care providers to provide meaningful health care access to LEP persons. These laws apply not only to hospitals and medical clinics, but also to nursing homes, home health agencies, managed care organizations, universities with health or social service research programs, hospitals, individual physicians and other health care providers. See generally, Questions and Answers Regarding the Department of Health and Human Services Guidance to Federal Financial Assistance Recipients Regarding the Title VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited English Proficient Persons, at finalproposed.html. All providers receiving federal money (such as Medicare or Medicaid) must have policies in place that conform to the federal LEP guidelines. If a health care provider's patient has a limited ability to speak English, these federal guidelines provide that the LEP patient may be entitled to receive language assistance-in the form of oral interpretation or written translationfor medical treatment.

Beyond the federal laws, there are ethical and legal reasons for health care providers to comply with these policies and strive to provide health care access to LEP persons. This article explores the background of the federal LEP regulations, the diffculties faced by LEP patients when seeking medical treatment, and with respect to physicians, the ramifications on informed consent when providing health care to LEP patients. Finally, this article gives recommendations for implementing strategies that wil not only assist health care providers in their relationships with LEP patients, but also wil assist in compliance with federal LEP policies.

Federal LEP Requirements

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides that programs and activities receiving federal funding may not discriminate on the basis of race, color or national origin. 42 U.S.c. §2001d. Regulations that implement Title VI prohibit not only intentional discrimination, but also practices or policies that have a disparate impact based on race, color or national origin. 45 C.P.R. §80.3(b). In 1974, the United States Supreme Court held that failing to provide language assistance to LEP persons was a violation of Title VI where that failure disparately impacted a particular national origin group. Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563, 568-69 (1974) (Title VI violation based on national origin where school district failed to provide equal benefits to Chinese-speaking children who were unable to speak and understand English).

In 2000, President Bil Clinton issued Executive Order 13,166 that required all federal agencies to work with recipients of federal financial assistance in order to provide "meaningful access to their LEP applicants and beneficiaries:' Exec. Order No. 13,166,65 Fed. Reg. 50,121 (Aug. 11,2000). The Order required each agency to prepare a plan to improve access for LEP persons to federally funded programs and services. Id., see also, Enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964-National Origin Discrimination Against Persons with limited English Proficiency, Policy Guidance, 65 Fed. Reg. 50,123 (Aug. 16,2000).

With respect to health care providers, compliance with Title VI requires that those receiving federal funds may neither intentionally discriminate against, nor engage in practices that have the effect of discriminating against, persons on the basis of race, color or national origin. The Department of Health and Human Services ("DHHS"), Office for Civil Rights ("OCR") is the federal agency that implements Title VI and President Clinton's Order as it pertains to health care providers. 45 C.P.R. §80.8 (2001). Typically, the OCR attempts to obtain providers' compliance either voluntarily or informally. Id. However, if a recipient continually fails to comply with Title VI regulations, the OCR may terminate the recipient's government funding. Id. Enforcement of Clinton's Order is limited to the OCR, as private citizens cannot bring a cause of action for disparate impact under Title VI. Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275,293 (2001).

Shortly after President Clinton signed Executive Order 13166, DHHS published a LEP Policy Guidance to assist providers in complying with the Order. 65 Fed. Reg. 52762 (Aug. 30, 2000). However, many health care providers (including a charge led by the American Medical Association) challenged the Order because it forced them to pay for medical interpreters for LEP patients with only nominal (or no) reimbursement. See generally, Tanya Albert, Medical Interpreter Rule Faces Review, Legislative Challenge, Am. Med. News, May 21, 2001. In a letter to then-DHHS secretary Tommy Thompson, the AMA cited one case in which a doctor was forced to pay $237 for an interpreter, and reimbursed only $38 by Medicaid. Id.

DHHS revised its guidelines in 2003 to emphasize flexibility and further encourage voluntary compliance. See Revised Guidance to Federal Financial Assistance Recipients Regarding Title VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited English Proficient Persons, 68 Fed. Reg.47 ,311 (Sept.0, 2003); see also, Wayne J. Guglielmo, The Translator Mandate Gets Easier, Med. Econ., Feb. 6, 2004. While health care providers stil have a responsibility to provide "meaningful access to LEP persons" under the 2003 revised guidelines, DHHS recognized the need for providers to conduct individualized assessments of their ability to provide this access. To conduct this individualized assessment, the revised D HHS guidelines provided a four-factor balancing test.

Under the four-factor test recommended by DHHS, health care providers should consider:

1) the number or proportions of LEP persons eligible to be served or likely encountered;

2) the frequency with which LEP individuals come into contact with the service;

3) the nature and importance of the service to people's lives; and

4) the resources available to the federal funding recipient and costs.
68 Fed. Reg. 47,31 1.

While the first two factors are largely determined by the provider's location and surrounding population, the third factor may well tip the scales in favor of providing interpreter services where health care is involved, especialy in the case of emergency treatment. See generally, Scott Shively & Mark T. McCarty, Does the Patient Hear (and Understand) the Provider?, Health Lawyers News, June 2005, at 18.

Health care providers should assess the first and second factors by taking into account whether the provider is located in an urban or rural location, whether the population has a large number of LEP persons, the type of services provided (for example, if the provider is a specialist as opposed to a walk-in clinic or a facility with an emergency room), and whether, given the current patients, there is a general need for provision of interpreter services.

With regard to the third factor, the "nature and importance" of health care is probably to be considered high. Arguably, the need for people to access safe and affordable medical assistance is one of the highest and most important basic requirements of a community. Because the importance of health care access is so high, and because the importance of a patient's communication with and understanding of a health care provider is so high, the need for an interpreter wil likely be considered to be great in this field.

The fourth factor may require some research by the provider to determine whether there are any community services that provide volunteer interpreters, whether any affiliated health care plans or managed care organizations provide funding, the availability of private interpreters in the area and their qualifications and rates, whether existing staff members are bilingual, and what particular Medicare or private payor requirements the provider wil need to comply with in order to obtain reimbursement for professional interpreter services.

LEP services for patients may be provided either by oral interpretation or written translation. The Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAX') does not require that health care providers obtain an LEP patient's authorization to disclose protected health information to an interpreter, so long as certain conditions are met. See OCR's Frequently Asked Questions, at:
http://healthprivacy.answers. hhs. gov I cgi - bi n/h i paa. cfg/ph pI enduser Istd_ad p. ph p?p _faq id= 760.

Diffculties Faced by LEP Patients

Unfortunately, the LEP federal mandate of providing interpreter services was imposed without simultaneously allocating funding to fulfil that requirement. HHS Guidelines for LEP Patients,at pub/category/11828.html. Medicare does reimburse some interpreter costs, so long as the health care provider complies with certain requirements; otherwise, funding may be available from private sources. While funding for interpreters may be diffcult, these laws were nevertheless well-intended: to improve LEP persons' access to health care; to decrease the number and severity of misdiagnoses or medical errors; to allow for true "informed consent" and understanding of legal issues; and to increase patient satisfaction. See Assessment of the Total Benefits and Costs ofImplementing Executive Order No. 13,166, ( O.M.B. 2002), at inforeg/lepfinaI3-14.pdf. Without these regulations, LEP patients are left to navigate a process that, irrespective of English proficiency, can be complicated and overwhelming.

For patients with limited English proficiency, obtaining health care services can be frustrating, diffcult, and may have potentially dangerous consequences. See, e.g., Nina Bernstein, Language Barrier Called Health Hazard in E.R., N. Y. Times, Apr. 2 1, 2005. LEP patients face barriers in scheduling appointments, understanding medical forms, communicating symptoms and ailments, and comprehending diagnoses and treatment. See generally, Rose Cuison Vilazor, Community Lawyering: An Approach to Addressing Inequalities in Access to Health Care for Poor, of Color and Immigrant Communities, 8 N. Y. U. J. Legis. & Pub. Pol'y 35, 41 (2004/2005). In order to communicate with a health care provider, LEP patients sometimes have a family member or friend to accompany them to their appointment to act as an interpreter.

Where the interpreter is not professionally trained (also known as an "ad hoc" interpreter), or does not know medical terminology, miscommunication frequently arises. A study published in Pediatrics in 2003 revealed that errors in medical interpretation are common, averaging 31 errors per clinical encounter between a provider and a LEP patient. Glenn Flores et al., Errors in Medical Interpretation and Their Potential Clinical Consequences in Pediatric Encounters, Pediatrics, Jan. 7, 2003. The most common error occurred where an interpreter assisting in a pediatric visit omitted information either given by the LEP parent or by the health care provider. The study recommended that given the frequency of errors (especially those made by ad hoc interpreters) and the potential negative clinical consequences, the best solution to these problems would be to provide third-party reimbursement for trained medical interpreters.

In addition to the potential miscommunications that may arise with ad hoc interpreters, LEP patients may face difficulty in asking an ad hoc interpreter to relay symptoms that are embarrassing, or that are stigmatized within their culture. Even health care providers' information may suffer with an ad hoc interpreter in the room: For instance, a provider may be reluctant to ask a LEP patient's minor child to relay information about an embarrassing side effect of a particular prescription. Other difficulties arise where the ad hoc interpreter is a family member and also the source of the injury suffered by the LEP patient, such as a spousal or child abuse situation.

Infomed Consent as It Relates to LEP Patients

For physicians obtaining informed consent from their LEP patients, there are additional reasons to avoid ad hoc interpreters and to hire third - party medical interpreters whenever possible. Although the DHHS revised guidelines do not prohibit family members or friends of the LEP patient serving as an ad hoc interpreter, such usage should be regarded with caution. It is likely that an ad hoc interpreter's understanding of medical terms is limited, and that the patient or health care provider wil miscommunicate regarding either symptoms or treatment.

Informed consent is not only an ethical duty of physicians, but also a potential legal pitfalL. Informed consent law varies from state to state, either by statute or by common law, but the principles as they apply to physicians are generally the same: Without first obtaining consent from a patient upon whom the provider intends to perform an invasive procedure, the provider may face liability. See generally, Barry R. Furrow et al., Health Law, 321-69 (2d ed. 1991).

In general, except in emergency situations where the patient is in need of immediate treatment and therefore incapable of giving consent, or in situations where the patient is mentally incompetent or a minor, the health care provider must obtain consent from the patient personally for the proposed treatment. d. In some states, if the patient is incapable of giving consent, the physician must stil obtain consent by the patient's guardian or family member. The modern trend of consent law also holds that in order to obtain valid consent, a health care provider has a duty to not only explain the diagnosis and proposed treatment, but also anyalternative methods of treatment and risks to the patient with or without treatment. Id.

Valid patient consent may be express (either orally or in writing), or may be implied by the conduct of the patient. Id. In order to be valid, the patient must have the capacity to consent to the treatment. If the patient is a minor, or mentaly il, or intoxicated, it is likely that the patient's compromised capacity would void any consent given to the health care provider. Similarly, a patient's consent likely wil be invalid where the patient misunderstands or is mistaken as to the treatment proposed by the health care provider. Id.

Where a provider is treating a LEP patient, clear communication is important to determining whether consent is valid. Health care providers treating LEP patients are vulnerable to communication mishaps that may result in vitiating a patient's consent. For example, consent may be void where the LEP patient misunderstands the health care provider's proposed treatment due to an interpreter error where the interpreter is not versed in medical terminology. Another scenario of potential invalid consent is where the diagnosis of the health care provider is mistaken or misinformed due to a LEP patient's reluctance to adequately describe symptoms in front of the patient's family member or child who is translating.

Below are several approaches that wil not only assist physicians in obtaining informed consent, but also wil allow health care providers to develop a policy to meet both the federal regulatory mandate and demonstrate a commitment to all patients' well-being.

Ideas for LEP Policy Implementation and Cultural Competency

The following suggestions for compliance can help ensure that communication Medical Liabilit and Health Care Law between the health care provider and LEP patient is at its optimum, which wil translate into more effective and appropriate care. Some services are available online, others call for policy changes within the provider's work environment, and some assistance is available depending on the surrounding community.

Bilngual Signage and Forms

Bilingual tools are one of the easiest, most economical, and readily available services to all health care providers, and they are only as far away as the nearest Internet connection. One widely utilized tool is "I speak" cards. These cards have "Mark this box if you speak..." written in various languages, and the patient can select their preferred language on the card. The card may be placed in the patient's file for the next time the patient has an appointment so that the health care provider can know to have an interpreter available, as well as provide forms in that patient's language. "I speak" cards are available at crtcor/Pubs/ISpeakCards2004.pdf or http://www. Posting bilingual signs in the waiting and reception areas wil help facilitate communication and efficient check-in procedures. It may also be wise to have standard informed consent forms translated into various languages.

Interpreter Services

Although it is convenient for the health care provider to use a LEP patient's family member as an ad hoc interpreter, the above sections demonstrate why it is better to have a neutral third party in the form of a professional medical interpreter. The provider should keep a list of local interpreters ready for use, including contact information, pricing, medical terminology experience, and availability (whether by phone or in person). Other local health care providers may be an excellent referral source for local interpreter or translation services as welL. Some agencies, health care plans, or managed care organizations may provide interpreter services. Other sources of funding may include federal state, or county departments of health. Finally, there may be community volunteer services nearby. See, e.g., Seattle's Cross Cultural Health Care Program at; see also Hablamos Juntos ("We Speak Together") at

Bilingual Staff

Hiring bilngual staff can have multiple benefits, from having ad hoc interpreters available if necessary, to increasing diversity in the workplace, both of which may serve to make LEP patients feel more comfortable. Some employers pay an increased salary to bilingual staff who serve as interpreters. There also may be local classes that interpreter staff can attend to learn basic medical terminology, a cost -cutting measure for the provider in the long-run.

Cultural Competency

Finally, cultural competency courses are a recommended way to ensure staff understand the difficulties facing LEP patients, and to foster communication between health care providers and their patients. Studies have shown that where a provider makes cultural competency a core institutional value, it improves the quality of care for all patients. See, e.g., Stephanie Taylor & Nicole Lurie, The Role of Culturally Competent Communication in Reducing Ethnic and Racial Healthcare Disparities, Am. J. Managed Care, Sep. 2004.


In terms of health care services, the worst communication is no communication. While all health care providers may not be able to afford a professional interpreter who is versed in medical terminology to translate for their LEP patients, most providers can make an effort to translate informed consent forms into various languages, print out "I speak" cards from the Internet, post bilingual signage in their facility, make efforts to hire a multi -lingual staff, and keep a directory of volunteer interpreter services in the area. When it comes to compliance with federal LEP mandates and demonstrating cultural competency, small steps should be taken in lieu of none at alL. Moreover, any steps are better than none to help provide equal, meaningful health care access to all patients.

Mary Re Knack is a member of the firm of Wiliams, Kastner & Gibbs PLLC in Seattle. Her practice includes defense litigation relating to health care, product liabilty, mass tort and civil matters. She is an active member of the DRI Medical Liabilty and Health Care Law Committee, the Washington Society of Health Care Attorneys and other professional organizations. Jennifer M. Gannon is an associate with Williams, Kastner & Gibbs PLLC in Seattle. She practices commercial litigation, focusing on health care and product liability defense.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Specific Questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.

[Book Review] Interpreters

MARCH 25, 2006 03:10
by Gi-U Lee (

By selecting 3,300 Chinese characters relevant to daily life and giving them Hangul (Korean language) sounds and translations, authors have rewritten China’s “Hun Mong Ja Hoi” (“Children’s Book of Chinese Characters”) and translated classics such as “Hyo Gyeong” (“Book of Filial Duty”) and “Soh Hak” (“Basic Studies”).

King Jeongjong praised the interpreters, saying, “It’s hard to find such characters as these,” and attempted to elevate their rank, but the nobles resisted. It was against the will of the heavens for an interpreter to become a high ranking official, they said.

Nobles looked down upon these interpreters, who immersed themselves in international trade during that era, as “translation merchants.” Following the tradition that placed more importance on agriculture than in commerce, it also reflected their perception of the superiority of landowners in the Joseon hierarchy.

The author of this book presents a new and original way of looking at history by examining the conflicting views of Korean history and drawing the attention of the public. By basing his theories on sound facts, the author attempts to read between the lines in order to reestablish the historical position of interpreters.

Joseon Interpreters were Excellent Diplomats-

Taking the place of the nobles, who insisted on full utilization of Chinese characters yet were ignorant on their usage and were frequently the laughingstock of the Chinese diplomats, the interpreters negotiated with the Chinese and pursued national interests.

Kim Ji-nam, who protected the southern side of Mount Baekdu after negotiating with the Chinese Ch’ing dynasty during the era of King Sukjong, was also an interpreter.

Interpreters had two jobs, as diplomats and international traders. They were Joseon’s richest people. In Park Ji-won’s “Hoesaeng Story,” Merchant Byun, who gave the shabby Hoesaeng 10,000 nyang (currency), was the grandson of Byun Seung-eop, an actual character whose family descended from a line of interpreters. In today’s terms, the Byun family had properties amounting to approximately 100 billion won.

How Did the Interpreters Amass Such Wealth?-

Joseon gained much in profits by providing services between China and Japan, as well as between China and the Manchurian ethnic groups, and the interpreters who were knowledgeable on internal and external politics were the main brokers. In addition, “Interpreters were at close quarters with the higher-ups (Hong Dae-yong, ‘Dam Heon Yeon Gi’),” where they met frequently with kings during work and accompanied high ranking officials or kings traveling for diplomatic purposes, which led to better connections.

The authors assess that the trade during the Joseon era that had an imperial, hierarchical flair was not demeaning, but actually functional diplomacy that Joseon used to its full advantage. “During early Joseon, the Chinese Ming dynasty called for one tribute every three years, while Joseon opted to bestow three tributes each year. The rule of tributes was that ‘tributes lead to reciprocal gifts,’ and China bestowed more gifts than its tributes, such that both countries stood to gain from the transactions.”

Interpreters moved to becoming the heads of politics with their acquired wealth. Born as a child out of wedlock, Jang Hee-bin was nevertheless able to enter the palace as a court lady and reestablish politics due to the strong backing of the Indong Jang family, who were late Joseon’s leading interpreters.

Though possessing more fortune and perception than the nobles, the middle-class interpreters were forced to be relegated to lower hierarchical positions.

By traveling overseas, they were the first to recognize changes in international politics, and they were eager to receive new ideas and advanced tools.

During conflicts with foreign countries, they would call upon their human resources and perform valuable spying, and under Japanese occupation, they aided the independence association through their financial resources accumulated up till then. They were also active participants during the March 1 Independence Movement.

“Interpreters weren’t mere nouveau riches. Though they were Joseon’s richest people, they knew how to use that money for their country. They were the shapers of Joseon’s economy, as well as pioneers that led to the enlightenment of a closed society.”

Locked up by indifference

By David Humphries
March 24, 2006

In HIS 22 years in Australia, Mr T has been apprehended by police and admitted to psychiatric wards at least six times. The Immigration Department wrongly incarcerated him three times.

The risible saga of Mr T's mishandling by the department - the latest revelation of Australians wrongly detained as illegal aliens - took the Ombudsman, John McMillan, 57 pages to spell out.

But, as the report itself says, the sorry mess can be distilled into one chilling equation - flawed laws delivered excessive authority in the hands of under-trained, ill-equipped and unfocused immigration officers.

On January 20, 2003 - three days after he began an eight-month stint at Villawood detention centre - Mr T was interviewed by Officer D. She noted he was mentally ill, had possible hearing difficulties and may have been intoxicated.

But because Mr T could not explain otherwise, she "formed a reasonable suspicion [the legal threshold for detention] that he was an unlawful non-citizen", Professor McMillan wrote. She also thought he had been in Villawood before, but she did inquire further.

Rather than a one-off, these errors characterised the mistreatment suffered by Mr T, and echo the failures shown in the cases of Cornelia Rau and

Vivian Alvarez Solon. So what is Mr T's story and how did Australian officialdom fail him so despairingly?

Mr T, 45 and ethnic Chinese, fled his native Ho Chi Mihn City in 1980. Before his sister sponsored him to come to Australia in 1984 he lived in a Malaysian refugee camp, where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. In 1989 he was granted Australian citizenship.

He was detained by Immigration as a suspected illegal alien on three occasions - for five days in March 1999, for 242 days between January and September 2003 and for a further six days in October 2003. Each detention was precipitated by NSW police apprehending the homeless, disoriented Mr T. Identification was impeded by Mr T's confusion, varied explanations, language difficulties and wrong names.

On one occasion, Mr T asked for a Mandarin interpreter, who could not understand his dialect, and then asked for a Vietnamese interpreter before denying knowledge of the language and refusing to talk.

In January 2003, a Cantonese-speaking officer incorrectly translated the Chinese characters Mr T gave as his name and for the next eight months the Immigration Department used this as his name.

On top of this, Mr T told Officer E he was an Australian citizen, but nothing followed. Officer E told Professor McMillan his job was to ask questions and fill in forms, not follow up on answers.

Inside Villawood, another detainee identified Mr T as someone he had met six years before but there is no record of the Immigration Department "taking any action to further inquire".

In April 2003, Officer G wrote that Mr T could be an Australian "for all we know" and suggested checks with mental hospitals. Again, no action, Professor McMillan said.

And how was this all resolved? An immigration officer had an ethnic Chinese colleague from Vietnam translate the characters Mr T had written for police eight months earlier. One translation matched Mr T's correct name and date of birth.

He was free to go. But not without help from the department that had wrongly held him because it had not done its job thoroughly.

"Mr T was provided with $20 cash," Professor McMillan wrote. He left with three bags of personal possessions, but left them under a tree outside Villawood.

Pathos layered on tragedy.

Bilingual newspaper bridges cultures

Minnesota Public Radio

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Shoshana and Renan Cruz are sitting at a table in the downtown St. Cloud library. A man in a cowboy hat is eavesdropping as they talk about their new publishing venture, a Spanish and English newspaper. After a few minutes he approaches the two. In Spanish he tells the couple the newspaper sounds like "a good idea" and gives them a thumbs-up. Shoshana and Renan say that's all the proof they need to know their effort will be successful.

The two began publishing a monthly newspaper called El Vecino — or "The Neighbor" — in December. The idea came about a year ago when Renan Cruz began work as an interpreter in St. Cloud. When the native of Guatemala worked at local hospitals, he was bothered by something he saw. In waiting rooms, the area's Spanish-speaking population, people from Mexico and Central America, stared at the walls. They had nothing to read.

"We have seen a huge amount of people out there who don't have any way to find information or give information. There was no publication for them until now," Cruz said.

But instead of starting a Spanish newspaper, the two decided to make their publication bilingual. Shoshana, who spent most of her life in Duluth before moving to St. Cloud, has a background in the newspaper business, so she writes news stories in English. Renan translates them into Spanish. The stories are then printed side by side in El Vecino.

"We thought this would be a perfect bridge in order for the two groups to be able to communicate with each other. Here's what's going on in the Hispanic community and sharing that information. It's also a venue for the English-speaking community to put their information in there, too," Cruz said.

In El Vecino's first two issues, the national debate over immigration has gotten a lot of attention. But so has local news from Long Prairie, Worthington and St. James, smaller Minnesota cities with significant Hispanic populations. The Cruz's hope to build a solid base of Spanish speakers hungry for news in their own language.

Marjorie Fish, a professor of mass communications at St. Cloud State University, said there's room for more Latino publications like this one in Minnesota. Fish said staying connected to the world is hard for people who don't see media in their own language.

"Being able to get news and information in your own language is particularly important for people who may not yet be fluent in English or who may not wish to be fluent in English who may want to as much as possible retain their own language and culture," Fish said.

Fish thinks bilingual newspapers are a good tool for people learning a new language. Whether that's Spanish speakers learning English or vice versa. Fish said the state's growing Hispanic population — a Census Bureau estimate puts it at nearly 200,000 people — will mean El Vecino should have plenty of advertisers willing to pay to reach that growing demographic.

One business owner who's advertising in El Vecino is Mark Gripp, the owner of tattoo and piercing shops in St. Cloud and Elk River. Gripp and hopes to reach out to more Spanish-speaking clients with his advertisements.

"We don't get a lot of Hispanic business," Gripp said.

El Vecino has been able to tout itself as the state's only bilingual newspaper, until recently. The Minneapolis-based Spanish language weekly La Prensa has started including English summaries of each of the stories it prints in Spanish.

Tough judge in English-learner case defies stereotypes

Amanda J. Crawford and Matthew Benson
The Arizona Republic

He's put away child molesters and drug dealers and ordered teenage murderers to be tried as adults. He's banned cattle grazing on federal land to protect endangered spotted owls and upheld a controversial state abortion law.

But no other case has put U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins in the spotlight more than Arizona's heated battle over funding to teach English to schoolchildren, many of whom are the offspring of undocumented immigrants.

While these children may be U.S.-born citizens, they've become players in a greater drama over immigration policy and government support for migrants. And that drama is playing out in Collins' courtroom with questions of separation of powers and judicial activism swirling around the judge's actions.

It's a curious position for Collins, 53, an intensely private man considered apolitical by many court observers. For more than a year, Collins has been at the center of a war of words and vetoes between Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano and Republican legislative leaders. The judge, who denied repeated requests for interviews for this story, at one point threatened to throw the governor, the speaker of the House and president of the Senate in jail for failing to comply with the court's orders in the 1992 Flores vs. Arizona case.

Frustrated by the political stalemate, he fined the state $1 million a day earlier this year and, circumventing lawmakers, directed the $21 million in penalties to go immediately to Arizona classrooms. That move was put on hold Friday by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The English-learner case is the latest act for a judge who has defied stereotypes and led a career in seeming contradictions: He's a Clinton appointee who has at times sided with abortion opponents, a jurist known for avoiding the partisan fray who's now accused of doing just the opposite.

On Monday, Collins will take center stage once more when he hears arguments on whether the latest legislative plan to spend $32 million more next year for English-language learners passes muster - even though the governor, who last month let the bill go into effect without her signature, hopes he rejects it.

Going into the hearing, many legislators are fuming that Collins has overstepped his constitutional authority. Some are throwing around the label "activist judge" and even calling for congressional action against him.

Never one to shrink from an immigration battle, Rep. Russell Pearce is among the most outspoken. The Mesa Republican described Collins as "that judge who hasn't read the Constitution, thinks that he has the right to appropriate money and should be impeached."

Courtroom candor

But those who know Collins say they doubt he is shaken by the controversy. They describe him as a conscientious and studious judge, one who cracks jokes with attorneys between cases but is quick to take lawyers who cross him to task and often spends time dispensing nuggets of wisdom to defendants.

Most cases, of course, don't carry statewide ramifications or draw headlines. They're the small-time drug cases and immigration hearings, the mundane decisions that make up the majority of Collins' judicial record.

One morning last week was typical for his Tucson courtroom. The mood was tense, as family members waited anxiously in wooden pews for the judge who held their loved ones' futures in the balance.

When Collins arrived, he traded light banter with attorneys before bringing the courtroom to order, and joked it was "a sign of Alzheimer's or something" when he called a lawyer by the wrong name.

One of the defendants before him was a 35-year-old undocumented immigrant who struck a plea agreement with prosecutors for trafficking marijuana. The judge communicated through an interpreter with the man, who faced five years in prison for the offense, his second in recent years. Collins warned him not to try to enter the U.S. again. "You'd be well advised, once you serve this sentence and are deported, to never, ever come back," he said grimly.

Collins, according to friends and colleagues, is a strong believer in the rule of law who never shirks from doing what he believes the law demands, no matter the emotions or political concerns involved.

"He takes in the arguments and carefully considers both sides," said Bruce Heurlin, an attorney who has known Collins for years and argued before him many times. "He's fair. He'll listen . . . . He is not going to do something based on what other people think. He does what he thinks is right, whether people like him or not."

From Arkansas to Arizona

Raner Christercunean Collins was born in Malvern, Ark., a town of about 9,000 people 45 miles from Little Rock that calls itself the "Brick Capital of the World." He studied sociology at Arkansas Polytechnic College (now Arkansas Tech University) and married his high school sweetheart, Theresa. The couple had their first child, a son named Tameron, in 1973, the same year that Collins graduated.

The family then moved to Tucson for Collins to attend law school at the University of Arizona. There, Collins, who is Black, became part of a small group of minority students at the mostly White law school. He joined the newly formed Minority Law Students Association and played intramural sports.

But Collins, who had a young family at home, seemed mature for his age and remained focused on his goals.

For example, Collins rarely was among the throngs attending the university's football games. Instead, he spent Saturday afternoons in the nearly empty library.

"He studied when the rest of us were out playing," said Tucson trial attorney Rick Gonzales, who was in Collins' law school class and was the beneficiary of many of his unused tickets.

After graduating and passing the state bar in 1976, Collins went to work at the Pima County Attorney's Office, where he had served as a law clerk. He became a criminal prosecutor, but seemed even early in his career to have his eyes set on a judgeship.

Richard Davis, Tucson attorney who counts himself among Collins' closest friends, said many of Collins' early career decisions were "geared toward" winning a judicial appointment. After the birth of his second child, Candice, Collins went to work as a magistrate for the city of Tucson. He then expanded his legal experience by returning to the County Attorney's Office to handle civil cases.

Said Gonzales, "There came a point in time in the County Attorney's Office that it became pretty evident that he had certain qualities that transcended the political stuff that was going on."

Starting in 1985, Collins served as a judge pro tempore, or temporary judge, in Pima County Superior Court. Three years later, Gov. Rose Mofford, a Democrat, officially named Collins to the Superior Court bench, saying he was "superbly qualified and has garnered a reputation of fairness among his peers in the legal profession."

Concern for children
While the English-learner case has gained notice for Collins, he has a long history of cases involving children.

Collins spent five of his years as a Superior Court judge in the juvenile court, including three years heading that court as its presiding judge. During that time, juvenile caseloads skyrocketed and court staff was expanded. Under his guidance, the court adopted a more progressive mission statement, calling for more efforts to prevent juvenile crime.

Collins also served on gubernatorial task forces on youth issues and juvenile justice and he continues to mentor minority high school students in his personal time through membership in the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. His colleagues said he seemed deeply concerned about the well-being of the children who came before his court.

"Having kids that age helped me understand some of the things the child was going through and what the parent is going through," Collins told the Arizona Daily Star before he left the juvenile court in 1993.

But the judge quickly learned that not every child could be saved. Perhaps no case was more striking than the 1993 case of 14-year-old Gina Celaya, who was charged with shooting a 50-year-old man to death and stealing his truck and $19 in cash. Collins ordered that she be tried as an adult, making her the youngest person in Pima County history at that time to stand trial as an adult for first-degree murder.

Her attorney called his decision a "tragedy for society" and asked, "Can we do nothing for someone who has gotten nothing?"

Collins was blunt.

The system "doesn't have the services (for you)," he told the girl. "It's not a question of money . . . Whatever we have for you is no hope. None whatsoever."

When a seat came open on the federal bench in Tucson, Collins was jointly nominated by Republican Sen. Jon Kyl and Democrat Rep. Ed Pastor. Both said Collins was their top choice, and President Bill Clinton appointed him in 1998.

A private man
Federal judges are famously discreet outside the courtroom, but Collins keeps a low profile even by those standards.

Friends say that's nothing new for a man who has always kept to himself.

At his alma mater, Arkansas Tech, Collins is not listed in the alumni "Hall of Distinction" despite his success. When asked about this peculiarity, an alumni association employee said Collins' listing in their database doesn't even include an occupation.

In response to requests by The Arizona Republic for a resume or other biographical information, Collins' office faxed a one-page, four-line reply with the years of his birth, admission to the bar and judicial appointments.

Davis described Collins as a religious man who has been active in his Baptist church, is devoted to his family and has remained down-to-earth despite his judicial appointments.

"He is the one person I think is honest as the day is long," Davis said. "He labors to do what is right, politics be damned."

Collins has made headlines in recent years with a few politically sensitive cases. In 2001, he upheld a law passed by state lawmakers that required girls under 18 to get parental or judicial permission before undergoing abortions. A year later, he struck down part of another abortion statute, ruling that authorities couldn't inspect abortion clinics or obtain patient records without a search warrant.

But since stepping into the Flores case, Collins has earned the ire of some conservative Republicans who accuse him of overstepping his authority in his rulings to force the state to spend more money teaching more than 150,000 non-English-speaking children the language.

State GOP chairman Matt Salmon accused Collins of trying to "jam his ideology down everyone's throats."

"This guy, to me, is overstepping his bounds," Salmon said. "My belief is he's legislating from the bench, or appropriating from the bench. And I think that's wrong."

Flores vs. Arizona was filed 14 years ago on behalf of a Nogales family who argued the state had failed to provide adequate resources to help non-English speakers. In 2000, another federal judge found that state funding for the program was insufficient. And though the Legislature nearly doubled English-learner funding in 2001, the public-interest attorney representing parents in the case asked the court to intervene again in 2004. That's when Collins got involved, ruling last year that funding continued to be "woefully inadequate."

He set a deadline for the state to address the issue by last spring. But the legislative session ended in a bitter stalemate after the governor vetoed a plan that she said did not meet the court's demand.

Last fall, attorney Tim Hogan of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest asked Collins to sanction the state by withholding more than $500 million of federal highway funds.

Lawmakers and construction industry representatives objected. When an attorney for a national engineering association questioned Collins' legal authority to block the highway dollars, Collins, clearly annoyed, leaned forward in his chair and asked pointedly, "What course in law school prepares you to tell a judge what he can and can't do?"

But instead of taking the highway funds, Collins threatened to raise the stakes for state officials personally. He repeatedly brought up the issue of holding legislators and the governor in criminal contempt and freezing their salaries or jailing them. He asked attorneys more than once, "Who should I lock up?"

That's a question state officials hope not to hear Monday when they're again in Collins' domain. He'll hear arguments over the Legislature's newest plan for English instruction and will once more be the focus of statewide attention and public opinion.

Whether he likes it or not.

Republic reporter Robbie Sherwood and researcher Joanne Dawson contributed to this article.