California's Tower of Babel court system

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussions' started by decimon, Sep 12, 2017.

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  1. decimon

    decimon Active Member

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    Courts in the state are being asked to find translators for languages such as Mixtec, Malayalam, Telugu, Wu, Hakka, Xiang, Kannada, Tarasco, Uzbek, Maithili, Oromo, Cebuano, Bhojpuri, Pashto, Igbo, and other languages not spoken with any frequency inside the U.S. According to the Los Angeles Times:

    Blog: California's Tower of Babel court system
     
  2. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Active Member

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    Occupation:
    lawyer
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    Las Cruces NM
    I have had hearings with Korean, Arabic, Cantonese, and American Sign Language interpreters. It's expensive but what choice is there? If you fail to provide an interpreter, you are effectively denying a fundamental constitutional right; access to the Courts. We do it whenever possible by speaker phone. My Korean interpreter was pulled off the road near Tacoma, Washington and handled the matter on her cell phone.

    I did a small claims civil trial last week where the entire proceeding was in Spanish with the interpreter for my benefit. (I speak the language but not well enough to conduct an evidentiary hearing without a Court certified interpreter and even if I did, it's against The Rules to do so.)

    I've also used Apache and Navajo interpreters in Children's Court cases when I was a practicing lawyer.

    We even allow non-English speaking jurors to serve, the first (only?) state to do so.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 13, 2017
  3. decimon

    decimon Active Member

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    Require a working knowledge of English? It's that or the entire United States turns itself inside out to accommodate hundreds of languages in all venues, an impossible task.
     
  4. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Member

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    Like Nosborne48 says, you're looking at 14th or 5th Amendment due process issues plus others like 6th, 7th, what have you, if you don't provide this. Just the cost of doing business in you're going to ensure one's rights to a fair trial in a country that (generally) respects the rule of law. If we just could do something about the lowered burdens of proof in civil forfeitures arising out of many criminal matters, then maybe we might really get with the constitutional program.
     
  5. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Member

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    Not like I want to get all contentious, but there's no constitutional enshrinement of the English language as the only language that can be spoken. People's rights are more important than the English language. I don't think our Founding Fathers, many of whom spoke multiple languages other than English and would likely struggle with many modern words, thought that the Revolutionary struggle had been fought and the Constitutional Convention convened for the English language, I think they were more into the Bill of Rights. If I were arrested on charges I could not understand in a strange land, I sure would hope for a translator and sure wouldn't think I was getting anything like due process if they didn't provide one.
     
  6. decimon

    decimon Active Member

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    Does that apply to non-citizens? Attaining citizenship should require a facility with English.

    The bottom line is that the impossible is just that, impossible.
     
  7. decimon

    decimon Active Member

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    Tourists can get that service from their embassies. That is possible and reasonable.
     
  8. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Member

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    Hadn't thought of that, it may be true. But even if a country doesn't provide these things or you have a country not on diplomatic terms with the U.S., you still want to provide basic constitutional rights. With most constitutional rights, non-citizens have the same basic protections, so long as they're here (not including the 15th, 24th, 26th amendments, of course, all that voting rights stuff).
     
  9. heirophant

    heirophant Member

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    Actually, a few of those like Hakka, might be widespread in the US. (It's a Chinese dialect, spoken in Taiwan and in the Chinese provinces opposite. It's also very widespread in Singapore.) Here in California, I don't think that there would be a big problem finding Hakka speakers. Finding Hakka speakers who qualify as court interpreters might be harder. Wouldn't they have to have familiarity with the legal terminology in both languages? How many people would satisfy that? And what about obscure tribal languages that not only have almost no speakers in the US but no equivalents for English technical legal vocabulary?

    I agree very emphatically with your basic point, Decimon. The whole idea that if foreigners enter the US, the US is somehow obligated to cater to them on their terms rather than expecting them to adjust to the norms and procedures of the United States, just looks like an additional argument for limitations on entry of foreigners whose presence threatens to be a burden.

    Here's a question: How do other countries handle this problem? It probably arises to a greater or less degree worldwide. The US just represents a worst-case, since it's such a desirable destination. Europe is obviously seeing huge influxes too. What does France or Slovakia do in the case of somebody who speaks an obscure regional dialect from Mali or Chad and claims not to understand French or Slovak?

    (I suspect that many of these people do understand the language if they are successfully living in the country, but don't like being in court and are just trying to jerk the system around.)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 13, 2017
  10. me again

    me again Active Member

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    There is a national phone service that law enforcement agencies use for the translation of any language. However, it's really expensive (per hour) -- and with as slow as court proceedings are, it would become incredibly expensive. But it's an available option for just about any language on the planet.
     
  11. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

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    Occupation:
    welding engineer-welding inspector
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