Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Page 1


S.C. Declines to Review Court Interpreter Licensing Requirement


By a MetNews Staff Writer


 The California Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear a challenge to 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.

The justices, at their weekly conference in San Francisco, voted 5-0 to deny review of the ruling by Div. Eight of this district’s Court of Appeal in Chan v. The Judicial Council of California, B224332. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Justice Marvin Baxter, who serve on the council, were recused.

The conference is usually held on Wednesdays, but is traditionally moved up during Thanksgiving week.

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.

Failed Exam

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.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge C. 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.

Not Similarly Situated

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.

Other Action

In other conference action, the justices denied review of a Court of Appeal ruling allowing the State Bar to assume jurisdiction over the practice of Calabasas lawyer Philip Kramer.

The State Bar took over Kramer’s practice, saying he had abdicated his professional responsibilities by using false advertising and by using non-lawyers to bring in clients, set fees, provide legal advice and evaluate cases. Kramer, along with four other attorneys and marketing firms, represented hundreds of clients and collected millions of dollars in fees, the State Bar claimed, in connection with mortgage foreclosure issues.

Clients allegedly paid between $3,500 and $10,000 it but they rarely, if ever, met with an attorney and the legal advice they were given by non-lawyers was often inaccurate, the State Bar said.

Kramer challenged the State Bar’s jurisdiction under Business & Professions Code Sec. 6190, claiming that the statute only applies to attorneys with mental or physical disabilities. But the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court both denied relief.

“Kramer’s inability to provide quality service to clients and to devote sufficient attention to his law practice warranted State Bar action,” State Bar Acting Chief Trial Counsel Jayne Kim said last night in a release. “We believed that the Superior Court properly assumed jurisdiction of Kramer’s practice given the evidence presented.  Today’s decision further validates our on-going efforts to prevent public harm.”


Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company