Friday, September 16, 2011
C.A. Upholds Judicial Council Interpreter Licensing Requirement
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday rejected claims that a Judicial Council requirement that interpreters pass language proficiency examinations in order to be licensed violated the due process or equal protection rights of nine previously-licensed interpreters who failed to pass these certifying tests.
Div. Eight said the plaintiffs failed to meet the initial substantive due process threshold since they did not have a property interest in remaining certified interpreters, and that they were not similarly situated to the so-called subject matter experts who helped develop the licensing exams.
In 1990, the chief justice gave the council authority over the administration of California’s court interpreter licensing regime. The council then contracted with Cooperative Personnel Services, a testing company, to develop and administer licensing exams for interpreters.
The council eventually decided that court interpreters for Mandarin, Russian, and Armenian required more rigorous examinations, and in 2000, directed that all court interpreters in these languages pass a new certification exam, which it tasked CPS and a group of five interpreters, described as subject matter experts, with developing.
After the exams were developed, the council granted these five interpreters automatic certification. The nine plaintiffs in this case, however, had to take the exams and failed to obtain certification.
Plaintiffs alleged that the council violated their due process rights by forcing them to pass the new certifying exams in order to retain their positions, and violated their equal protection rights by granting automatic certification to the interpreters who had helped develop the tests.
Trial Court Upheld
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Edward Simpson was not persuaded and granted the council’s motion for summary judgment. Justice Madeleine Flier, who wrote for the appellate court, said Simpson was correct.
She noted that “the record presents undisputed evidence that respondent did not guarantee appellants indefinite employment as court interpreters.” Flier said the council also gave the interpreters adequate notice that they would be unable to continue in their positions if they did not comply with the new certification procedures.
The justice further reasoned that the interpreters who were granted certification without taking the examination were not similarly situated to the plaintiffs since they took part in developing the tests and the plaintiffs did not. “[I]t would not make sense for them to take the very examinations that they helped to develop,” Flier said.
Flier concluded the council’s actions also “had a legitimate purpose pursuant to its legislative mandate: to develop certification examinations for the affected languages, and to choose a group of interpreters to help develop these examinations” so that they passed rational basis review.
Justices Laurence D. Rubin and Elizabeth A. Grimes joined Flier in her opinion.
Counsel for the interpreters were John Houston Scott and Lizabeth N. de Vries of the Scott Law Firm. Sandra L. McDonough and Marie A. Lavanier of Paul, Plevin, Sullivan & Connaughton represented the council.
The case is Chan v. The Judicial Council of California, B224332.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company