Interpreters Accuse L.A. Superior of Racism

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A Los Angeles Superior Court interpreter filed a class action claiming the court subjects her and other interpreters to racial discrimination, saying their foreign national origins are “highlighted by the nature of their work.”

     Alicia Grubic sued the court, presiding Judge Stephen Czuleger and head clerk John Clarke, claiming the court pays interpreters less than other court employees and keeps them from advancing, because interpreters are “overwhelmingly non-native-born members of minority national/ethnic groups.” Grubic says court supervisors associate and identify interpreters with the “foreign-born monolingual criminal defendants” they work with.
     In 2003, Superior Court interpreters finally won the right to be classified as employees, rather than contractors without benefits, the lawsuit says. Still, the court allegedly refuses to treat interpreters to the same employment policies as other court employees. Interpreters do not have salary “steps,” or structured raises based on seniority, as other employees do, according to the complaint. The court allegedly promotes white employees with no interpreting experience to supervise the court’s 400 interpreters, rather than promoting the interpreters themselves. Interpreters are also barred from transferring to administrative positions within the court, the plaintiffs claim, and from taking management classes and exams available to other court employees.
     Grubic says Superior Court judges often ignore interpreters when introducing court staff to a jury and when asking staff if they mind working late. Judges allegedly begin proceedings without waiting for interpreters to reach their clients, even when an interpreter is “racing” across a courtroom to reach a monolingual defendant. In contrast, the lawsuit says, judges will “always delay court proceedings for as a court reporter needs.”
     Allen Parachini, head of the court’s information office, refused to comment. “Since it’s pending litigation, we can’t really say anything.”
     The class wants a declaratory judgment forcing the Superior Court to grant interpreters salary “steps” and mandate sensitivity training for Superior Court judges, along with treble damages.
     Jon Drucker filed the lawsuit in Federal Court.

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