Attorney Dismisses Client’s Need for Interpreter

By Sahaily Zazueta

RIVERSIDE, CA – Christian Lizbeth Navarro Mendoza appeared in Riverside County Superior Court Friday for arraignment on a felony charge and a misdemeanor charge. And she appeared to know little of what was happening in court.

As Judge Gail O’Rane was informing Mendoza of her rights, she was informed that Mendoza required an interpreter.

But Mendoza’s attorney disregarded her need for an interpreter by instructing Mendoza to just repeat after him – but the judge wasn’t buying that.

Mendoza is facing a felony charge of willful child cruelty and a misdemeanor charge of driving on a suspended license.

Mendoza’s attorney, Mark Balali, appeared in court via WebEx. Deputy District Attorney Timothy Brown appeared in court in person.

Judge O’Rane told Mendoza that her attorney had requested to set a felony settlement conference for April 27, and that she has the right to have a preliminary hearing within 10 court days of Feb. 25 and to have it completed within 60 calendar days.

Judge O’Rane asked Mendoza if she agreed to waive time and if she did her preliminary hearing would be timely if it was held within 10 court days of April 27.

Judge O’Rane told Mendoza that if she had a question, she should ask it.

Defense Attorney Balali attempted to interrupt the judge, but Judge O’Rane prevented him from doing so, stating that Mendoza looked “like she has no idea what I just said to her.”

Judge O’Rane was then informed that Mendoza requires a Spanish-speaking interpreter. Judge O’Rane told Balali that the case would go off the record until Mendoza had an interpreter.

Balali stated, “Ms. Navarro, just say ‘Yes, I’m waiving time.’”

Judge O’Rane responded to Balali stating, “No counsel, please stop. Your client just requested an interpreter. I am not proceeding without an interpreter. The matter is on second call. We will order an interpreter over here.”

The case went off the record for four minutes. When the hearing resumed, Mendoza was being assisted by a Spanish language interpreter.

Balali requested to set a bail hearing and asked the court to enter pleas of not guilty and denials on Mendoza’s behalf.

Judge O’Rane told Mendoza that in the felony case, she will enter not guilty pleas and denials on her behalf.

Judge O’Rane again told Mendoza that her attorney had requested to set a felony settlement conference for April 27 and informed Mendoza of her right to a speedy trial. Judge O’Rane asked if she agreed to waive those rights and agreed that her preliminary hearing would be timely if it is held within 10 court days of April 27.

When Mendoza did not give a response, Judge O’Rane asked her if she would continue this case until Feb. 28. Judge O’Rane asked Balali if he will be available to appear on that date so he can inform Mendoza about her case, her rights, and what rights she is willing or not willing to waive.

Balali stated that he will send an attorney to appear on Feb. 28 “but I’d like to tell Ms. Navarro to follow my instructions and to waive time.”

Judge O’Rane responded, “Well, you’re not going to tell her that on the record in front of me when she has no idea as to what is going on. You are on the record and that is the problem with appearing on WebEx, is that nobody gets to talk to either the DA or the defendant to explain the process.”

Judge O’Rane set bail at $250,000 in Mendoza’s felony case and $5,000 in her misdemeanor case.

Through the interpreter, Mendoza asked Judge O’Rane, “What are the charges?”

Judge O’Rane responded, “That’s for your attorney to explain to you, but it’s willful child cruelty on the felony case, and that’s all I’m gonna explain to you, and on the misdemeanor it’s driving on a suspended license.”

Balali asked if the date for Feb. 28 could be set because Mendoza “is obviously not informed that I need to speak to her.”

Mendoza’s next court appearance is set for Feb. 28. Mendoza’s felony settlement conference and bail hearing are set for March 8, and her preliminary hearing is set for March 10.

About The Author

Sahaily is a senior undergraduate student at California State University Long Beach, majoring in Criminal Justice with a minor in Human Development. She aspires to become a public defender.

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