June 29, 2005

Independent Contractor Court Interpreters:

On June 10, 2005 CCIA president, Arturo Casarez, made a presentation to the Judicial Council of California's Court Interpreters Advisory Panel in San Francisco. This presentation focused on the urgent need for an increase of the independent contractors' compensation level statewide. As you are aware, interpreters have not received an increase in their per diem since July of 2000 when it was increased to $265/full day and $147/half day.

Mr. Casarez reminded the panel of their mandated duty to advise the Judicial Council on issues dealing with court interpreters and of the "impending crisis" across the state if independent contractors continue to leave the profession as a result of stagnant compensation levels. He informed the panel that employee interpreters and their union are on the verge of attaining the goal of full employee status which will include full benefits. Mr. Casarez then highlighted the importance of immediately increasing the per diem for IC's, as compensation is so closely tied to recruitment and retention of these highly specialized professionals. The fact that the majority of interpreters continue to be independent contractors, whether opt-outs or 100 day limited, and that the courts cannot function without this key resource was also emphasized.

CCIA's representative went on to remind the panel of the commitment to interpreters in 2000 by Chief Justice Ronald George that compensation parity with the Federal courts was the state's goal. Casarez suggested that a minimum increase to $300/full day, $166/half day would be appropriate given the increase in the Consumer Price Index for the last five years (approximately 13.5%). He concluded by stating that to approve an increase for employee interpreters and not do so for IC's would have dire consequences on the future availability of court interpreters statewide.

CCIA's presentation precipitated an open discussion by the panel, which is comprised of court administrators, lawyers, and court interpreters, and is chaired by Justice Eileen Moore. After much discussion they voted unanimously to advise the Judicial Council of the critical need for elevating IC's compensation levels as soon as possible. This type of important action has not been seen by this advisory group since the days when the Honorable Lance Ito, a strong advocate for court interpreters, chaired this committee.

The panel's recommendation to the Judicial Council will be followed with a direct plea by CCIA to Chief Justice George to increase the IC compensation levels ASAP, as not doing so would be contrary to the judiciary's commitment to "equal access to justice."

CCIA continues to advocate for all court interpreters throughout California. Please help by passing on this communication to colleagues not already included in its distribution.

The California Court Interpreters Association