Wednesday, April 26, 2006

HAWAII: HB 2500, Judiciary supplemental budget bill, section on Office on Equality & Access to the Courts (OEAC)

HAWAII INTERPRETER ACTION NETWORK
c/o Hawaii Newspaper Guild
1347 Kapiolani Blvd. Suite 404
Honolulu, Hawaii 96814-4512

Date & Place: April 25, 2006, Room 309, 7:00 p.m.

To: Conference Committee Members for HB 2500, Judiciary Supplemental
Budget
Sen. Hanabusa, Chair; Sen. Taniguchi, Co-chair; Senators Kanno,
Espero, Whalen
Rep. Representatives Luke and Takamine, Co-chairs; Rep. Meyer

Re: HB 2500, SUPPORT, Court Interpreter Certification Program

We ask you to provide complete staffing and funding for the Office on
Equality and Access to the Courts (OEAC), as requested by the Judiciary in
this bill.

The Judiciary asked for $183,000 for the court interpreter program located
within the OEAC. Funds are partly seed money for testing, and partly
money for three (3) positions. WAM cut it by one position, which is about
$25,000. We, HIAN, would like the Judiciary to receive the full amount
they requested, for the following reasons.

¢ The OEAC is staff for two important Supreme Court Committees:
1. Court Interpreter Certification. This includes the sub-committee
on Certification.
2. Equality and Access to the Courts.

¢ Current OEAC staff inherited a considerable backlog of work of
projects requiring completion as well as projects such as court
interpreter certification, which need to get off the ground promptly.
Backlogged projects, including translations of in-court forms, have had to
be placed on the back burner. Court interpreter certification is a major,
new program which needs to be regularized as an on-going activity. The
office is already heavily burdened and understaffed. OEAC needs all three
positions requested in order to accomplish the tasks ahead in a timely
manner.

¢ Otherwise, we can expect continued delays in creating equal access
to the courts for Hawaii's diverse population. The longer the Hawaii
Judiciary takes to improve conditions, the greater the suffering of
Hawaii's Limited-English Proficient (LEP) population. The Chief Justice
also has a variety of projects related to equal access to the courts that
he is asking OEAC to take on. Without additional staff, this will be very
difficult. Current OEAC staff is already carrying a full load of
responsibilities.

¢ HIAN is tremendously impressed with the commitment of current OEAC
staff to making progress. The OEAC needs to achieve *positive* stability.
Hard-working, dedicated staff deserve our full support. Please restore
the monies that were cut from the OEAC budget. Thank you.


M. Alohalani Boido, M. A.
Legislative Action Committee Chair

In Praise of Loopholes

by Matthew Baldwin
There’s something to be said for working smarter, and not harder, and humans have been looking for—and finding—loopholes to enable it for centuries. A look at some of our most celebrated loophole practitioners, and their tales.

The oracle predicted that he who unraveled the Gordian Knot would rule the land. Men traveled from across the continent to try their hand, but none could find a solution to this most perplexing of problems.

Then Alexander the Great came to Phrygia. When he too failed to untie the knot, he pondered the prophecy for a moment before riving the knot in two with his sword. The knot unraveled, the cart was freed, and Alexander the Great eventually conquered all of Asia.

—The Legend of the Gordian Knot

My friend Rebecca is a prosecutor and, whenever I see her, I insist she fill me in on her recent cases. Though most involve routine litigation, she occasionally tells a gem of a tale.

The last time I asked, she told me about the Anus Motion.

“This guy gets pulled over on suspicion of a DUI,” she said, “And it turns out that he only speaks Spanish. So the cop radios for a Spanish-speaking colleague. A second officer shows up, reads the driver his rights in Spanish off of a little card that all cops carry, and they administer the breathalyzer test. Sure enough, the guy is soused.

“We figure this case is a slam dunk. But a few weeks later the driver’s lawyer submits a motion to have the results of the breathalyzer voided, saying that the defendant didn’t understand his rights before we gave him the test. And we’re all, like, ‘Nuh-uh! We read him his rights. In Spanish, even.’

“But the defense somehow got a copy of the Spanish language card that the officer read from, and noticed that the little squiggle was missing from above an ‘n’ in the sentence: ‘¿Tiene veinteuno años?’ In English that literally translates to ‘Do you have 21 years?’—in other words, this was just a routine question to make sure the guy was an adult. But without the tilde over the ‘n’, the word ‘años’ becomes ‘anos’—Spanish for ‘anuses.’

“They’re claiming that the driver thought the officer asked ‘Do you have 21 anuses’, despite the fact that the officer reading the card spoke fluent Spanish and would have pronounced it ‘años’ anyway. And the defendant said ‘si.’ We’re supposed to believe that the guy genuinely thought he was being asked if he had multiple anuses and answered with an enthusiastic ‘yes!’

“The best part is that the defense attorney can’t even bring himself to say the word ‘anus.’ Instead, he calls it ‘the back region.’ We’re going in front of a judge next week, and I’m going to make a point of saying the word ‘anus’ as many times as I can during the proceeding. I even got them to call the legal brief ‘The Anus Motion,’ so he won’t even be able to refer to it by title.

“What do you think the judge will do?” I asked her.

She shrugged. “Probably throw the case out,” she said. “And we’ll have to go back and change all the cards.”

Digitrad Launches the First Live Interpretation Service on Skype

France-based company Digitrad announced the launch of the Live Interpreter by 1TouchConnect™ Service, a multilingual interpreter featured in Skype's new services package Skype for Business.

This service gives the chance to any company, whether large or small, needing to conference with non-English speakers to do so using Skype. The languages to be provided are from English to French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin Arabic or Farsi.

Companies or individuals can call the specific language live interpreter and then conference-in the third party on a Skype call (PC to PC) or on a SkypeOut call (calling traditional land or mobile lines).

Digitrad has been partnering with Skype to offer enhanced services to Business customers. 1TouchConnect™Live Interpretation Service is provided by Digitrad on the IVR-platform www.stand4u.com, a state-of-the-art application that enables any operator to create value added and premium voice services without any previous technical knowledge in record time.

"The old telecom business model which used to make money out of communications is about to end", said Micha Benoliel, founder of Digitrad. "In the future, only services will remain as a source of telecommunication revenue. With Stand4U, we provide an easy way to handle the future and make VoIP profitable."

To find out more about Digitrad’s Live Interpreter by 1TouchConnect™ go to Skype for Business' home page (www.skype.biz) or on www.stand4u.com.

Bridging language barriers during emergencies

By Kristen Pritchard, Staff Writer

Emergencies can hit anyone, but what happens when a person who's in trouble doesn't speak the same language as the person who has come to help him or her?

Workers in St. James have various tactics they use to bridge this gap.

Jeanette Dexheimer, St. James Ambulance Manager, said in emergency situations the Ambulance crew looks to others for assistance first.

"We try to find someone who does speak English," Dexheimer said.

Typically an English speaking person is close-by who can help with translation and is usually a realitive, friend or neighbor of the person in need of immediate care. And if noone can translate at the scene, ambulance personel figure a lot out just by examing the situation and checking the person's vital signs. They also use guestures to help communicate. If someone is having a baby, they have access to Spanish and English language pamphlet which has basic important terms listed in both languages. Because there usually isn't enough time to get a translator at the scene, Dexheimer said the Ambulance crew does whatever it can to help the patient before he or she gets to the hospital.

"We're pretty much doing what we have to do until we get to the hospital," Dexheimer said.

Linda Winkelman, Director of Nursing at St. James Health Services, said three interpreters work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the hospital to help with language barriers between patient and caregiver. Two of the translators speak Spanish, the other speaks Laotian. Winkelman said two of the hospital's doctors speak Spanish as well so nurses and doctors may contact them in emergency situations to help out.

Winkelman said she thinks the hospital's procedures on bridging language barrier gaps work very well during the day when the interpreters are on the job. At night she said sometimes things can be a little bit more difficult.

When an emergency situation arises, employees can call the hospital's translators if they aren't already working. Nurses and doctors can also contact a list of community members who are willing to translate when needed. These six translators all speak Spanish.

The hospital also has access to a language line, which is an interpreting service of several different languages done via phone. Winkelman said this service is rarely used. Read more of this story in the April 27 edition of the St. James Plaindealer.

Monday, April 24, 2006

English lessons make a sentence

Judges send convicted non-native speakers to class
By Angela Mapes
The Journal Gazette

Sitting still in a classroom feels like a punishment to some children.

For non-English-speaking offenders in local courtrooms, language education has become a punishment – or at least a common part of plea agreements – as an increasing number of judges are sentencing them to learn English.

Steuben County Magistrate Randy Coffey recently ordered a Hispanic man, charged with driving under the influence, to perform community service, with the stipulation that his community service be to take English classes.

In Steuben County, it was a fairly isolated occurrence, prosecutors said. Coffey declined to comment for this story.

But in other courtrooms, such as those in Noble and Kosciusko counties, the idea has steadily gained popularity, and an increasing number of judges are steering non-English-speaking offenders to classrooms.

The concept isn’t without controversy. Last month, a Florida judge ordered a Mexican couple accused of alcohol abuse and domestic violence to learn English or risk having their children taken away, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

Like a similar 2005 case in Tennessee, the judge’s actions drew criticism from indignant Hispanic advocates and legal experts, who said it wasn’t fair to give the couple an ultimatum to learn English. The Tennessee judge was disciplined for the ruling, the newspaper said.

However, sending offenders to classes is different from demanding they learn English, said Fran Quigley, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

When used appropriately, the sentence is no different from ordering a defendant to work toward earning a GED, and within a judge’s rights, Quigley said.

It’s been happening in Noble County for at least a decade, said Stacey Beam, chief of probation for the county.

As Noble County’s Hispanic population has risen, so has the number of offenders ordered to learn English, she said. In the past five or six years, it’s been a regular occurrence.

Noble County’s Hispanic population grew from 625 in 1990 to nearly 3,300 in 2000, when 7.1 percent of the county’s population was Hispanic, according to 2000 census statistics. It’s continued to grow, according to Hispanic advocacy groups.

Spanish-speaking offenders often bring their own interpreter to go over the terms of probation, and the courts have an employee who acts as an interpreter, Beam said.

In most cases, any defendant put on probation who requires the use of an interpreter will be sent to take the classes, said probation officer James Hunt, who deals with most of the department’s Hispanic clients.

Currently, Noble County has nearly 50 Spanish-speaking offenders on probation.

Hunt typically requires offenders who are sentenced to take English to one class a week, three weeks a month.

LEAP of Noble County Inc., the Literacy Empowering and Advocating Project, with offices in Ligonier and Kendallville, has been a resource for the courts, Hunt said. LEAP offers free English as a New Language classes, as well workplace literacy, GED in Spanish and other courses.

Generally, the defendants who take the classes have been proud of what they have learned, Hunt said.

“I think they see it as a positive,” he said.

The classes also serve as a way to get the Hispanics out into the community, he said, something some of them are nervous or reluctant to do on their own.

State Rep. Matt Bell, R-Avilla, has been executive director of LEAP of Noble County Inc. for three years.

Many who are sentenced to take English classes for the terms of their probation often continue, even after their sentences are complete, Bell said.

Often, “there’s a tremendous learning curve,” he said. Some students in LEAP’s English as a New Language program come into the classroom with limited educational backgrounds, and may have had little interaction with the written word in the past.

Entering students are given an assessment and sent to whichever course is best for them, he said.

A slowly growing trend

The push toward getting offenders to learn English hasn’t caught on everywhere.

Although Allen County, too, has a burgeoning Hispanic population – it increased an estimated 11 percent between 2000 and July 2002, to 15,654, according to a census study – prosecutor Karen Richards said she can’t recall any cases in which a Hispanic offender was sentenced to take English classes.

In Steuben County, Prosecutor Tom Wilson said the sentencing in the magistrate’s court was a rare occurrence.

The courts have been spending more money for interpreters, but there really hasn’t been much discussion yet about the concept of sending non-English-speaking Hispanic offenders to English classes.

In the end, it’s the judge’s call, Wilson said.

The courts spend a lot of money on interpreters, so the idea makes sense, he said.

In Noble County, not only are offenders ordered to take English classes, but sometimes they are ordered to a class that teaches national and state laws, prosecutor Steven Clouse said.

Judges – generally, Judge Michael Kramer of the Noble Superior Court Division II – often order offenders to take the class, which is offered at the Bowen Center in Albion.

Leah Heaston, Director of the Bowen Center’s Albion office, said the center holds the class every other month.

The program has been around for a few years in Noble County, and May 6, it will have its first run in Kosciusko County, said Marsha Streby of the Bowen Center in Warsaw.

The one-time class is given in Spanish, she said.

A local, bilingual attorney created the original curriculum and translated it for the Bowen Center. The center recently designed its workbook and made it more interactive, and included more information about domestic violence and substance abuse.

Studies have shown that such courses reduce repeats of certain offenses, Streby said.

Repeats of alcohol-related offenses, such as driving while intoxicated and public intoxication, are reduced by nearly 70 percent.

Repeat offenses of a domestic nature go down about 24 percent, Streby said.

“Very few of the people that have gone through the class have had probation violations,” Streby said.

State job task force hit

Few businesses are cited for wage violations
By Susan Ferriss -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PDT Monday, April 24, 2006

Story appeared on Page A1 of The Bee

A task force unveiled last year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger faces accusations that it is failing in its mission to investigate wage violations in agriculture, janitorial services, garment factories, construction and other industries where unscrupulous employers are known to exploit immigrant workers.
Since July, the multi-agency Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition, known as the EEEC, has conducted 944 sweeps or investigations of seven types of businesses, including restaurants, racetracks and carwashes.

The coalition has assessed more than $3 million in possible penalties because of businesses' failure to provide workers' compensation insurance or follow other rules. But the enforcement coalition has issued no more than 17 minimum-wage or overtime citations statewide and opened only about 50 wage audits, none of them finished, according to records made available by the California Department of Industrial Relations, which is part of the coalition.
"This was a new program designed to get at the underground economy," said Mark Schacht, an attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance. "If you can't find overtime and minimum-wage violations in the underground economy, have you even found the underground economy?"

Schacht is asking a state Senate budget subcommittee to support funding apart from the enforcement coalition to increase wage abuse investigations. The subcommittee is to meet Thursday.

By not cracking down on wage abusers, the state is allowing the underground economy to continue to flourish, advocates said.

While records show an unexplained assessment of $4,536 in back wages owed farmworkers after 240 sweeps, not a single minimum-wage or overtime citation has been issued against an agricultural employer.

Last year, the governor vetoed $3 million that Schacht and other advocates had asked the Legislature to include in the budget to increase investigations devoted solely to wage abuse in certain industries. California's work force grew by 48 percent between 1980 and 2000, advocates pointed out, but the number of labor investigators has been cut back over the years to the same level as 1980.

Schwarzenegger agreed California had too few investigators but said the new enforcement coalition would do the job advocates wanted.

"What's not good for California is when businesses build their success by cheating - not paying taxes or workers' comp or exploiting workers," Schwarzenegger said when the coalition was announced. Its mission statement declares that unscrupulous employers "employ vulnerable workers (newly arrived immigrants), children and the poor to whom they often fail to pay even the minimum wage mandated by state or federal law."

As the latest incarnation of special labor task forces formed over the past decade, the enforcement coalition received $5.5 million in funding. About 55 staffers were drawn from health, wage, tax and employment development agencies, along with the Contractors' State License Board.

Documents released in November showed a total of 17 overtime and minimum-wage citations. A more recent summary shows only nine. Spokesmen for the enforcement coalition said its work is ongoing and that updates with more detailed explanations of results will be provided.

"Even if all 50 wage audits they're still doing are all overtime and minimum-wage violations, they'd still only have little more than 100 citations," Schacht said.

A few more citations for wage abuse may be added to the tally as a result of a March investigation at a restaurant in Woodland. A worker called the coalition after employees agreed they were tired of being shortchanged by the owner and wanted their money before quitting.

Investigations into wage abuse have fallen short for a long time, labor advocates say. In 2004, the state Department of Industrial Relations' Bureau of Field Enforcement, which dispatches investigators to check reported abuses, issued only 113 overtime and 81 minimum-wage citations out of 5,796 investigations.

Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment, presided over a November hearing on the enforcement coalition after its sweeps had begun.

"We don't see any real sign of focus on getting back wages for employees," Koretz said. "I think they're going in and checking the low hanging fruit, like a lack of workers' compensation. That's good, but it's not enough. We think more than half the garment workers are underpaid."

In Los Angeles County, a large number of sewing factories operate off the books, said Alejandra Domenzain, an associate director of the watchdog group Sweatshop Watch. A U.S. Labor Department report found that in 2000 about 70 percent of garment factories in Los Angeles failed to abide by wage laws. Nothing has improved, Domenzain said, because "the pressure of globalization - to keep businesses here rather than them going to other countries - provides more incentive to cheat workers."

She said the enforcement coalition should invoke laws to hold accountable the companies that contract out to underground garment factories. The coalition issued eight overtime or minimum-wage violations during 205 sweeps of such companies, and assessed $848 in wages due workers.

The governor's office referred calls about the Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition to the state Department of Industrial Relations.

Dean Fryer, a coalition spokesman at the department, said the task force is doing the best it can with limited resources. Immigrant workers, many undocumented, fear government agencies even when their intent is to help, he said. The coalition does not make any inquiries about legal status.

"Yes, we have a problem," he said. "Sometimes we see employees dashing out the back." But, he said, multilingual investigators attempt to detect a variety of violations and distribute business cards to employees and suggest they call to talk in private.

"We look at everything," Fryer said. "One person will go off and find the employer when we go into a business. The other inspectors are talking to employees."

While the enforcement coalition hasn't issued any overtime or minimum-wage citations in agriculture, Schacht said, CRLA successfully sued last year to recover more than $675,000 in wages due dairy workers. CRLA attorneys contacted the enforcement coalition and acting California Labor Commissioner Robert Jones with tips of more possible abuse but say follow-up has been limited.

CLRA attorney Blanca Banuelos won $13,330 in unpaid wages last year for Agustin Ibarra, who worked in 2003 for Bento Dairy in Modesto. "I made copies of each check so I had proof what I had been paid," Ibarra said in Spanish. "I was making about $3.60 an hour."

Banuelos said she alerted the Department of Industrial Relations and an investigator began to look into the ranch in January 2005. "I was not able to interview any employees because they are supposedly all monolingual Spanish speakers and I did not have an interpreter available," the investigator wrote in a report dated March 25, 2005.

The Bentos were served a citation that carries a $20,000 penalty for workplace and wage reporting violations.

Banuelos said lawyers for the Bentos tried to use the investigator's report in court to argue that Ibarra had not been underpaid.

Last year, CRLA surveyed 1,050 workers during the fall Central Valley raisin harvest, which employs 40,000 to 50,000 seasonal workers. More than 46 percent said their pay stubs failed to show the total hours they had worked. More than 70 percent of those surveyed said when they worked for piece-rate wages, they failed to receive the state minimum wage of $6.75 an hour.

Certified court translators get push

By Mari A. Schaefer
Inquirer Staff Writer
A lot can get lost in translation.

Defense attorney Michael Malloy of Media remembers the case of a Spanish-speaking client who was being told his Miranda rights, and one word was misinterpreted by police.

" 'You have a right to a lawyer' became, 'You have a right to a woman,' " Malloy said.

The client's confession was suppressed when the error was exposed in court.

Nearly a million Pennsylvanians speak a language other than English at home, according to 2000 census data. And though many of them will never have a brush with the justice system, those who do, whether as victim or defendant, are entitled by federal law to have an interpreter by their side.

But the quality of the translation they receive and those who provide it can vary greatly. That may soon change, at least in the courtroom.

A bill before the Pennsylvania legislature would establish a program to appoint and use certified court interpreters for those who have limited English proficiency or who are hard of hearing.

"It has always been needed," said State Rep. Angel Cruz (D., Phila.), one of 18 sponsors of the House bill. "When we go into court, it is blind to race, color and gender. But we need to make sure it is blind to the needs that people walk into court with. It is important we don't violate anyone's civil rights when they can't understand."

Judiciary Committee Chairman Dennis O'Brien (R., Phila.) said the House was getting input on the bill from the Association of Pennsylvania Courts. He hopes to have the bill to the floor before summer. A similar bill passed the Senate in July.

Without a set of standards and training for interpreters, there is a danger of instant grounds for appeal if the exact nature of what is being said is not translated correctly, O'Brien said.

There are currently about 500 interpreters regularly called upon to translate in the Pennsylvania judicial system, and a booming caseload involving people with limited proficiency in English.

Anna Arias, who worked as a court interpreter in Luzerne County for about seven years, remembers a case she witnessed while waiting to interpret for a client. An inmate at the prison asked a fellow inmate to translate during a closed-circuit TV hearing. Arias realized the inmate was incorrectly interpreting what the judge was saying.

"I had to jump in and say this is not being done right," Arias said. "Lucky for him I was there or it would have been a big misunderstanding."

Malloy said family members have often served as interpreters at hearings. "It is not uncommon for the court to say, 'Is there someone here to interpret?' "

But, said Laura Schriver, president of Language Services Associates, "a bilingual person does not make an interpreter."

Schriver, who supports the move to certified translators, said court interpreters must "keep up the tempo and tenor" of what is being said, cannot add or delete, and must translate simultaneously.

Under the current Pennsylvania system, courts can use anyone to translate. Though some courts have their own lists, many rely on agencies such as the Lingual Institute in Philadelphia and Language Service Associates of Willow Grove to find qualified interpreters for trials, especially for rare or unusual languages.

These interpreters undergo training provided by the agency, which includes role-playing and written and oral tests.

Last year in Pennsylvania, 57 languages were spoken in the court system, according to Osvaldo R. Aviles, interpreter program administrator for the state.

He was hired when Pennsylvania joined the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification in 2004, a project of the National Center for State Courts. The consortium was founded to develop and regulate tests for interpreters.

In 1985, New Jersey took steps to address the "huge problem of quality control in respect to interpreters," said Robert Joe Lee, court executive for the Administrative Offices of Courts. The state Supreme Court issued directives on who could be hired to interpret and in 1995, along with Minnesota, Oregon and Washington, New Jersey founded the consortium. Today, 34 states belong.

About a third of those states have legislation establishing a certification program and another third operate on court mandates, said Bill Hewitt, a consultant for the National Center for State Courts.

States that have joined the consortium use standardized tests and training materials. A master list of certified interpreters is available from the consortium for use by any state.

The certification exam, which would also be used in Pennsylvania, has written and oral sections. The written section covers information on English-language skills, the structure and function of the courts, legal vocabulary, and a code of ethics. A three-part oral exam includes a simulation, a consecutive translation, and a sight translation, in which an interpreter must read a document and deliver a translation back into the records.

ACLU lawyer Paula Knudson feels the step to certified interpreters is "very exciting," but warns that it is only a beginning. At every step of the way in the judicial system - police departments, counselors, and prisons - there are community members who have limited English-language skills.

Jose Carcamo, a Honduran national, sat in Franklin County Prison for more than a year without seeing a lawyer after he allegedly stole hot dogs from a store.

Carcamo, who prison officials thought was mentally unstable and catatonic, received a letter - written in Spanish - from Knudson asking whether he needed help.

"He wrote back in Spanish, 'Yes, I'm in here. I have never seen a judge or lawyer. Can you help me?'

"He could talk," Knudson said, "but nobody had bothered to speak to him in his own language."