‘All We Can Do is Cross Our Fingers,’ Judge Tells Defense About Finding a Nepalese Interpreter on Time

By Daniella Dueñas

WOODLAND, CA – In the case of an accused who does not speak English, there is usually a court interpreter called in to translate, ensuring the accused understands what is occurring and makes informed decisions.

However, it appeared from the hearing in Yolo County Superior Court this past week for the accused—not named because the charge was not a felony—there is a big shortage of interpreters.

Judge Stephen Mock, stepping in for Judge Timothy Fall, was presiding in a trial readiness conference for the accused, charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly inflicting corporal injury on spouse or cohabitant.

The defense attorney was requesting a good cause continuance because it has not found a Nepalese interpreter and, as a result, has not been able to properly speak to his client.

“Since I was assigned to this case, I haven’t had any luck trying to contact one or find one that’s been responsive,” explained certified law clerk Chris Condes, working out of the Public Defender Office under DPD Peter Borruso.

“My client is here at the podium. He has a limited understanding of English so he does waive an interpreter for today’s proceeding,” noting the accused has an appointment this Friday with an interpreter, so he was hoping to be able to communicate with his client to prepare for trial.

Judge Mock turned to Deputy District Attorney Casper Gorner to ask about his position. Gorner had no objection, but did ask for a limited time waiver.

“We would have to get in a time waiver because I think the 450 is on the 14th,” agreed Judge Mock.

Condes did not want to do this, considering that there was no way to ask KC about whether or not he agreed to the time waiver. They had no interpreter in the court and the accused would not be able to understand him given the language barrier.

Borruso approached Condes, whispering something next to him. Condes restated his previous argument, that if he were granted the continuance he would be able to at the very least inform KC and then he could give a more informed answer.

“I did speak with him this morning about a time waiver,” Condes stated after a moment’s pause, “He does not understand the concept nor can he help me prepare for trial.”

Judge Mock agreed to the continuance and admitted that finding an interpreter would prove to be a difficult task.

“I would say that in my experience, it’s been very difficult to find a Nepalese interpreter. We have another case in the courthouse I think involving a Nepalese-speaking defendant and the courts have huge problems identifying one that’s available on a given date. All we can do is cross our fingers,” he concluded.

A trial readiness conference was set for Dec. 7, where a Nepalese interpreter will be needed.

About The Author

Daniella Dueñas is a recent graduate from the University of California, Davis. She double-majored in Political Science and Sociology, with an emphasis on law and society. Her interest is primarily in immigration law, however, she is also interested in criminal law and justice. Daniella plans to attend law school in the future, but is working towards getting a certificate from an ABA-approved paralegal program.

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