Judge to Ask Interpreter Office Why It Can’t Help Defendant’s Attorney

By Savannah Dewberry

SACRAMENTO, CA – Although the Sacramento County Superior Court judge here Thursday suggested a request to order an interpreter for a defendant is unusual, similar cases have cropped up in other courtrooms over the past year, in part blamed on the effect of COVID-19.

Defense lawyers have claimed the inability to get interpreters so they can communicate with their clients is violating the rights of the defendants.

Such was the charge Thursday, when defense attorney Joseph Farina requested the court push back the trial date for his client Thursday, and then requested a special hearing on March 26. Not for his client, but for the Sacramento Court Interpreter’s Office.

Defendant Ishmael Gonzalez-Rives only speaks Spanish, but his attorney, Farina, does not.

Farina said in court that he had requested a translator, but that the Interpreter’s Office had refused to send one down to The Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, where his client is located.

“He’s being denied due process and protection if I cannot communicate with him, and the interpreter’s office refuses to send someone down,” said Farina. “I am requesting this court order that someone shows up [to RCCC], otherwise how am I going to talk to my client?”

Farina alleges that the Interpreter’s Office told him to use The Language Line, an over-the-phone interpretation service, but Farina called that “ridiculous” and said he does not get adequate cell service at RCCC.

Farina again asked the court to order the Interpreter’s Office to send someone to the court to explain why they would not provide an interpreter for the defendant.

Judge Timothy Frawley was unsure on how to proceed, noting, “In all my many years of doing this Mr. Farina, I’ve never been asked to make such an order and I don’t really know that I have the authority to do so.”

A special hearing was scheduled for March 26, where a representative for the Interpreter’s Office will be asked to attend and explain their reasoning.

Judge Frawley agreed to the special hearing, commenting, “I don’t know what the Interpreters Office’s reasons are for not doing as Mr. Farina asked. There may be a reason. I don’t want to make an order in ignorance of what may be a valid reason.”

Savannah Dewberry is a student at the University of San Francisco. She is pursuing a media studies major with a minor in journalism. Savannah Dewberry is an East Bay native and currently lives in San Francisco.

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