Hablas Español? If So, CA Courthouses Need Your Help

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By Danae Snell

FRESNO, CA – Fresno County Superior Court Judge Adolfo Corona was pressured to take matters into his own hands late last week after he was forced to leave Defendant Ernesto Roman waiting all morning for an interpreter.

And the judge isn’t the only person in a black robe in the state facing the problem of too few interpreters—Superior Courts all throughout California continue to struggle with processing cases due to the lack of interpreters.

Too many cases, according to courts, are being deferred to later dates because there simply are not enough interpreters, and, according to reports, workers in the court system are becoming increasingly frustrated with waiting on interpreters to arrive in order to facilitate communication.

In the case of defendant Roman, he arrived at the department about 8 a.m., but was not able to be called by the judge until after 11 a.m.

The judge attempted to call defendant Roman’s case earlier, but was quickly informed by Deputy District Attorney David Olmos, “Judge, I don’t see that we have a Spanish interpreter and we are going to need one for this case.”

Judge Corona even attempted to inform the defendant himself, speaking the best Spanish possible, to help defendant Roman understand what was causing the delay.

While waiting for an interpreter, defendant Roman’s private defense attorney, Roger Bonakdar, almost left his client’s Zoom hearing, informing the court, “I am actually kinda double dipping here, I have a video conference on a matter in King’s County.”

Then Defense Attorney Bonakdar asked the judge, “Is there a way we can set this over to 1:30 just to be safe?” noting, “I (still)don’t know when we will have an interpreter.”

Judge Corona expressed concern for the defendant who was waiting all morning through his response, “Well, let me ask you this, is Roman okay with your plan and have you had a talk for him?”

Defense counsel Bonakdar quickly responded with, “No, I have not had a talk with him. I imagine everything is going to be fine.”

Judge Corona suggested the defense speak with his client via telephone with a phone interpreter to receive his permission to allow his lawyer to appear “PC 977,” which allows defendants to waive their right of appearance. The use of this PC section 977 will allow the court to address Defendant Roman’s case without an interpreter.

While the defense spoke with his client through the phone, the courtroom sat in silence for eight minutes waiting for their conversation to conclude. The wait finally ended once an interpreter entered the room and the judge immediately called Roman’s case.

In the end, the preliminary hearing was continued to Sept. 10, 2020—not because of the interpreter shortage but because, as it turned out, defendant Roman was just released from quarantine because of coronavirus exposure, and wasn’t able to work with his defense counsel to prepare for the hearing.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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