Written By Chris Dolan and Megan Irish
This week’s question comes from Pam from the East Bay, who writes: It’s summertime, and the kids are out of school. We will be hitting the road and seeing the sights all over California. Any tips or advice for us when we hit the road to be safe in our car?
That sounds great. A family road trip can make memories to last a lifetime. Before you take to the roads, doing vehicle maintenance and understanding your route is a good idea.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends many safety checks. Here are a few:
Check your air conditioning system, as it must work harder in the summer heat. Having air conditioning in good working order is not only a comfort factor but can be essential for children or older adults. Heatstroke can be a serious or deadly consequence of an overheated car. Even with windows cracked, a car starts heating up, and outside temperatures as low as the 70s can quickly reach lethal levels. Never leave a child, an older adult, or a pet in a car.
While under the hood for the air conditioning, look at the belts and hoses, as the warmer temperatures can cause the rubber and hoses to deteriorate. Also, check the connections, and secure any that may need tightening. Should the hoses and belts be cracked or bulged, it’s time to replace them. (If you are not familiar with these items have your local mechanic shop review this for you).
Are your fluid levels where they should be? Check out the oil, brake, transmission, power steering, and windshield washer fluids. Top up each reservoir as needed.
Look at the tires, and make sure they have sufficient tread. The tread should be at least 2/32” or greater on all tires. You can use a penny to check the tread. Place a penny upside down into the tread; if you can see the top of President Lincoln’s head, the tread is too thin, and it is likely time for new tires. Is the wear even on the tires? If not, an alignment may be in order. Also, are they properly inflated? Check your tires’ pressure when the car has not been driven for at least three hours (after the tires have cooled) and compare the readings to the sticker mounted on the pillar of the driver’s door frame.
How are your headlights, brakes, and turn signals? Are all the bulbs working? Also, look at the emergency flashers to ensure they perform properly. Additionally, ensure your floor mat is debris-free and installed properly on the floor. If it has started to fray or become damaged, it could get in the way of the driver moving their foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal.
Finally, make sure your seatbelts and car seats, as needed, are in good condition and properly installed.
Once the car is ready, make sure you have safely packed, and none of the bags block the driver’s ability to use mirrors and inspect blind spots as they are driving and changing lanes.
Take a moment to familiarize yourself with your route. CalTrans has online resources that provide current highway conditions, including planned closures. Also, while GPS is a wonderful tool, being aware of your route means you spend less time looking down at the device and more time looking at the road, a much safer approach. Your device may lose battery power or fall in a river, or knowing your route is a safe preparation. Let people know when you expect to arrive somewhere, so someone will check on you if you are outside your arrival window.
When traveling with children, you can have simple games to amuse them. Three simple but fun car games are looking for out-of-state license plates, finding cars in the color of the rainbow, or the truck imagination game, where the kids take turns telling a story of what is in the back of the closed container of an 18-wheel truck. Kids of all ages can play on trips and have lots of fun.
Make safe choices while you are out on the road. Pay attention to your surroundings and be alert when you stop for gas or other essentials. Use your seatbelt and respect the speed limit. Do not drink or use drugs while operating a vehicle.
Depending on your experience some items we discussed could be delegated to your local mechanic shop. Just make sure to ask them to take care of any concerns you may have.
Most importantly, have a great time with your family and make those road trip memories.
Christopher B. Dolan is the owner of the Dolan Law Firm. Megan Irish is an associate attorney in our Oakland, CA, office. We serve clients throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and California from our offices in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles. Email questions and topics for future articles to: email@example.com. Each situation is different, and this column does not constitute legal advice. We recommend consulting with an experienced trial attorney to understand your rights fully.
The Dolan Law Firm celebrates and commemorates the importance of Juneteenth, a day that teaches us the importance of continued work towards liberation and highlighting/supporting our black communities in every possible way. It is important to pause and reflect on our nation’s history of oppression, and the resounding call for true liberation and equal justice for all.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth commemorates the true end of slavery in the United States, a significant milestone in American history that remains under-recognized to this day.
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring the end of slavery in the United States on January 1, 1863. However, enforcement was slow. It took an additional two and a half years for General Gordan Granger to arrive in Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of slavery through General Orders No. 3.
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”
In other words, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas did not know they had been freed until June 19, 1865. This date marks the true end of slavery in the United States.
On June 17, 2021, Juneteenth became a federal holiday when President Biden signed a resolution supported unanimously by the Senate and with an overwhelming vote by the House in favor. All 50 states and the District of Columbia now recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or observance, and at least 22 states and the District of Columbia have designated Juneteenth as a permanent paid and/or legal holiday through legislation or executive action.
Juneteenth has also been celebrated under various names such as the following:
- Freedom Day
- Jubilee Day
- Liberation Day
- Second Independence Day
- Emancipation Day
Today, the United States Supreme Court stood for what is just for Indian Country as the ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978) was upheld by a 7-2 vote. The ICWA recently came under attack in Haaland v. Brackeen (2023), a case brought by the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana, as well as a number of individual claimants, seeking to establish the ICWA as unconstitutional.
The ICWA is a 45-year-old federal law that protects the well-being and best interests of Native children, their families and their communities. The ICWA prevents the arbitrary removal of Native children from their homes by public and private agencies. The ICWA recognizes Native families and tribal communities as the dominant authority for determining how to protect their own children. Recognized by child welfare experts as the gold standard in child welfare practice, the ICWA has for decades helped tens of thousands of Native children and families remain intact, as well as find fairness and healing in state child welfare systems. The ICWA was established in response to the United States government’s long historic campaign of destruction and erasure of Native peoples and communities, which in part, included the forceful removal of Native children from their homes and placement in non-Native homes without consent or justification. This win recognizes the importance of preserving the culture, communities and existence of Native peoples.
Written By Chris Dolan and Aimee Kirby
This week’s question comes from Laurie in San Francisco, CA, who asks: I want to understand why attorneys are not interested in my daughter’s case. Fellow students physically bullied my daughter for years in middle school. When it started happening, I thought the best approach was to let the kids work it out amongst themselves. When it poured into her second year in middle school, I talked to her teachers about it, and they all indicated they didn’t see anything happening in their classrooms. By her last year in middle school, it got really bad. She withdrew from us at home, was very anxious, and I believe she was receiving threats on social media. She wouldn’t talk much about it, and I think the teachers telling us that they didn’t see it happening made her feel like maybe it was not occurring. My family and I decided to move school districts so she could start fresh at a high school without bullies. She has been doing much better at her new school this year and will be a Sophomore next year. As she has gotten some distance from what happened, she has told me more details of what occurred for three years in middle school.
My daughter told me that three girls, whom she refused to name, would follow her in the hallways at school weekly and push and shove her while laughing at her. The girls would make fun of her clothing and hair (my daughter is half African American and half white in a predominately white school). They would also find her during lunch and get people to join them in making fun of her. She also received texts and calls from various numbers she didn’t know. My daughter didn’t save these horrible, mean texts, and we have no way to prove this happened. Is it too late to sue for what happened three years ago? Attorneys told us we missed a deadline in the law and refused to take the case.
I am so sorry to hear what your daughter endured during middle school. Many dismissed bullying when I was in school as “kids being kids.” Today bullying is finally getting attention throughout our country. With the advent of social media, bullying has taken on a new form, far from prank calls and toilet papering houses to disturbing behavior that can hurt children very deeply. These cases are just starting to get the justice they deserve as everyone slowly abandons the “kids being kids” mentality.
The first thing an attorney will do is determine the Statute of Limitations for your cause of action. The Statute of Limitations for a civil case dictates how much time you have to settle your case or file a civil lawsuit. You would have two separate cases here. One case would be against the school district for negligent supervision of your daughter, and the second would be against the parents and children who did this. Depending on the facts, sometimes the actions of a minor can be attributed to the parents. Both cases have different Statutes of Limitations.
Claims and lawsuits against Government Entities are complex and generally can only be handled with an attorney. When you sue a Government Entity, like a School District, you must give them notice of the claim within six months of it happening and file a civil lawsuit generally within one year of it occurring. If you fail to file the Notice of Claim within six months, you can seek relief from the government entity and, if denied, the court if you are within one year of the act happening. There are exceptions to these requirements for childhood sexual abuse victims because the law recognizes that children often suppress these memories until adulthood as a coping mechanism.
If you are not suing a Government Entity, the general statute of limitations for personal injury is two years from the date of loss unless the child is a minor. Then you have 18 years plus two years for the Statute of Limitations to expire. That means that you would have the possibility to sue on your daughter’s behalf the parents and the children that did this. The case appears to have lapsed against the school district if a year has passed since the last bullying incident.
However, when considering what actions to take in cases involving children, we always counsel our client on what the recovery may be and what the litigation would require of the minor and their family throughout the litigation. In this case, the causes of action against the minors and parents would be intentional torts. That means they are not an accident but an intended act. The problem with intentional torts is that there is no insurance for the acts, so these parents would have to have liquid assets to make any settlement offer. Without applicable insurance, any recovery will be difficult.
The other consideration is the mental well-being of your daughter. You could option filing in small claims court, which has a cap on the award amount. However, in that situation, your daughter would still have to appear in court, tell the judge what happened, and deal with facing these children, perhaps again. Filing in Small Claims Court limits in-person depositions and written discovery. The litigation experience is challenging for children, so we only suggest it when the financial recovery is significant and can help them in their future. It is a balancing act that only a parent can decide for their child as to whether filing makes sense. In your case, there was a limitation on suing the School District because the statute had expired to file. Additionally, the lack of insurance to cover the minors and the parents, and the amount you would be awarded, are grounds for which the attorneys you have spoken to may have decided not to move forward with representing you.
I am so sorry this happened to your daughter and that the law, both criminally and civilly, doesn’t have the justice she requires. I hope the distance from these kids and the new school help your daughter and your family heal.
Written By: Christopher B. Dolan and Vanessa C. Deniston
This week’s question comes from Amanda in Richmond CA who asks: I have a number of young female relatives living in states that are expected to ban abortion. I am deeply concerned for their safety and bodily autonomy should they have an unplanned pregnancy. As a native Californian, I feel deeply privileged to live in a state that recognizes fundamental reproductive rights, but what about my relatives? Can our state help them? If so, how and to what extent?
Thank you for your timely and thoughtful question. Weeks after the Supreme Court’s unprecedented decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the constitutional recognition of a woman’s right to control her own reproductive destiny, many states with laws recognizing these rights are still reeling from the shock and grappling with how to respond. California lawmakers, however, have been anticipating and preparing for this moment for years and were ready with immediate, aggressive action. On June 24, 2022, the very day the Supreme Court announced its decision, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 1666, legislation designed to insulate patients and providers from civil liability in other states seeking to impose their anti-abortion laws on individuals within California’s borders. Newsom has been adamant California will welcome women from other states seeking abortion care, stating,
“We’re not going to be asking for your ID. We’re not going to be asking you a litany of questions that are asked in almost every other state. You have a right to confidentiality.”
Post-Roe, California is the nearest legal abortion provider for an estimated 1.4 million women. It is estimated that up to 16,000 people will travel to California seeking an abortion per year. There can be no doubt that this is a humanitarian health crisis of epic proportions and will greatly impact California, the state slated to become a west coast stronghold for reproductive rights. To meet these challenges, Governor Newsom has proposed a $125 million dollar package to expand access for women within the state and help the state prepare for the influx of out-of-state women seeking reproductive healthcare that are likely to travel to California from states imposing bans or otherwise restricting access.
In addition to AB 1666, there are twelve other bills currently under consideration by California’s legislature regarding reproductive rights within the state. Several of these bills address extending resources and support to out-of-state individuals seeking abortion access and shielding providers from out-of-state legal attacks. A few of these include:
SB 1142 – Establishes an “Abortion Support Fund” to provide grants to California organizations assisting patients, including out of state patients traveling to California, in overcoming barriers to abortion access through practical and logistical support such as covering the cost of travel expenses and medical procedures.
AB 2091 – Enhances privacy protections for medical records related to abortion care under California’s Reproductive Privacy Act, greatly limiting disclosures to out of state law enforcement and third parties seeking to enforce out of state abortion bans.
AB 2626 – Protects abortion providers in California by prohibiting the removal or suspension of medical licenses of a licensed providers performing or assisting in abortions in California, compliant with California law.
This November, Californians will have an opportunity to vote on SCA-10, a proposed amendment to the California State Constitution that would explicitly enshrine the fundamental right to seek an abortion and access contraceptives. Currently, that right exists under California’s Reproductive Privacy Act, which ensures privacy and liberty in personal reproductive decisions. SCA-10 seeks to further cement these rights by adding direct and unambiguous language to the state constitution. In relevant part, the proposed amendment in SCA-10 reads:
“The state shall not deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”
For the first time in this nation’s history, the U.S. Supreme Court has made the decision to revoke a fundamental right previously recognized nationwide. Prior to this Court’s recent reversal, cases concerning the interpretation and limits of fundamental rights have either been expanded or clarified, but upheld. The significance of this preternatural decision by the Supreme Court cannot be understated as it signals, unambiguously, that other fundamental rights currently recognized at a national level are at risk of being recalled and shifted back to individual states to define, redefine and interpret as their state legislature sees fit. This will inevitably create cultural polarization and legal inconsistencies state to state.
For now, out-of-staters seeking refuge in California from oppressive laws in their home states limiting or revoking their reproductive rights, have resources that are likely to expand even further by the end of the year.
Written By Christopher B. Dolan and Cristina Garcia
This week’s question comes from Leticia who asks: Lately, the news has focused on the Supreme Court and their rulings. I’m concerned how all this will affect me. I live in the Bay Area and don’t plan to leave California any time soon. I want to know how the opinions released by the Supreme Court of the United States affect Californians?
Thank you for your question. The Supreme Court of the United States, also called SCOTUS, has released a series of opinions that affect various issues, from reproductive rights to environmental protection. A question that many Californians are asking themselves is how do the SCOTUS decisions affect our state?
To understand how the SCOTUS decisions will affect Californians, reviewing the Supremacy Clause is essential. The Supremacy Clause is a clause within Article VI of the United States Constitution, which states that federal law is the “supreme law of the land.” Federal law preempts state law if it interferes with or conflicts with federal law.
For example, the case of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., et al. v. Bruen, et al. illustrates how the Supremacy Clause preempted New York state law. This case involved two men who applied for permits to carry a concealed weapon in public. Under New York State’s Sullivan Act, local officials were given discretion in determining whether the applicant proved “good moral character” and “proper cause” for needing the concealed-carry licenses for self-protection distinguishable from the general community. Local officials determined that neither of the men had demonstrated proper cause and denied their requests. The two men then sued the state officials who oversee the process of licensing applications, alleging that their Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by denying their unrestricted-license applications.
After reviewing the case, the SCOTUS determined that “New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment. It prevented law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.” (Id.) The SCOTUS effectively struck down New York State’s Sullivan Act, which placed restrictions on individuals carrying concealed weapons.
The SCOTUS decision is important to California specifically, as we have similar gun control laws to New York, and the recently decided case is now precedent. This means that the SCOTUS opinion will be used as authority by other courts when deciding subsequent cases involving similar facts or similar legal issues. Therefore, they SCOTUS opinion may be used to challenge gun laws in California.
Although in New York’s case, the SCOTUS determined that federal law preempted state law, it has also issued opinions that embolden a state’s ability to enact legislation on various other issues, including those which the SCOTUS itself had once settled. A couple of those decisions are Dobbs, et al. v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, et al., which overturned the landmark case of Roe v. Wade. The SCOTUS opined that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. They would return the authority to regulate abortion to the states. As a result, each state can ban abortions, place restrictions on abortions, or allow for safe abortions to take place. Similarly, in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), the SCOTUS limited the federal EPA’s ability to overhaul the nation’s electricity supplies in favor of wind power and other renewable resources. Therefore, allowing the states to determine what legislation to enact. Thus, although the SCOTUS opinions did not involve California, they may affect California laws. The cases discussed above are a short synopsis of the SCOTUS opinions. We strongly encourage everyone to read the opinions themselves or the detailed summaries of organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Written By: Christopher B. Dolan
If You’re in the Stands, Keep Your Eye on the Ball: Over the past decade, at the beginning of baseball season, I have published a column concerning who is responsible if someone gets hit with a line drive, foul ball and/or broken bat while watching a game. As a lawyer, and a big Giants fan, I like to start off the season by saying, put down your cell phone and keep your eye on the ball during play. A distraction can lead to serious and even life threatening injury.
Balls and bats leaving the playing field and entering the stands are not uncommon. In a 2014 Bloomberg News analysis of ballpark injuries, it was reported that each year in the United States roughly 1,750 spectators are injured by batted balls at major league ballparks. The study showed spectators were much more likely to be hit with an errant ball than a player was to be hit with a pitch. While most injuries are thankfully minor, there are reports of severe injuries, and even death, due the sport’s use of wooden bats and 90 mph plus fastballs.
In an article published in the Boston Globe by Catherine Cloutier on June 09, 2015, Edwin Comber, a baseball statistician, is quoted as saying that about 73% of foul balls go into the stands. A 2000 lawsuit against the Red Sox revealed that during a five-year period in the 90’s, 36 to 53 fans per year were hit by balls outside the field of play. Furthermore, there have been reports of skull fractures and even brain injuries, as a result of bats and balls entering the stands. As the fans demand to be ever closer to the action, and the field is filled with high-priced seats closer and closer to the plate and baselines, the risk of injury goes up just as fast as the price.
The issue of liability for fans’ injuries was addressed by the California Supreme Court in 1935 in the case of Quinn v. Recreation Park Ass’n, 3 Cal.2d 725, where the court held that one of the natural risks assumed by fans attending major league games is that of being struck by batted or thrown balls. The Court ruled that the franchise and/or park owner/operator is not required, nor does it undertake, to insure patrons against injury from such source. All that is required is the exercise of ordinary care to protect patrons against such injuries. Management is not obliged to make each seat safe from flying balls. The court pointed out that many patrons prefer to sit where their view is not obscured by a screen.
The duty imposed by law is performed when screened seats are provided for as many as may be reasonably expected to call for them on any ordinary occasion and if a spectator chooses to occupy an unscreened seat or is unable to buy a screened seat and chooses to occupy one that is not protected, they, “assume the risk of being struck by thrown or batted balls; and, if injured thereby, is precluded from recovering damages therefor,” as stated in Brown v. San Francisco Ball Club.
In Neinstein v Los Angeles Dodgers Inc. (1985) 185 Cal.App.3d 176, the Court of Appeals held that:
…The quality of a spectator’s experience in witnessing a baseball game depends on his or her proximity to the field of play and the clarity of the view, not to mention the price of the ticket. As we see it, to permit plaintiff to recover under the circumstances here would force baseball stadium owners to do one of two things: place all spectator areas behind a protective screen thereby reducing the quality of everyone’s view, and since players are often able to reach into the spectator area to catch foul balls, changing the very nature of the game itself; or continue the status quo and increase the price of tickets to cover the cost of compensating injured persons with the attendant result that persons of meager means might be priced out of enjoying the great American pastime. To us, neither alternative is acceptable…
Despite the Court’s unwillingness to intervene to reshape baseball through tort law, I am happy to report that all thirty teams in the MLB have decided to extend safety netting and screening all the way down the first and third baselines to the foul pole. So, if you are in the lower section, you should be better protected from line drives and broken batts. If you are in the upper decks, keep your eye on the ball because, if you are in an unprotected seat, you are legally assuming the risk of injury.
Written By Christopher Dolan and Kim Levy
This week’s question comes from Bill S. from San Francisco who asks: I’m taking my family to Hawaii in a few weeks and just learned that a Florida judge struck down the mask mandate for airlines. I’m confused about how this will impact our trip. Does this mean that no one will have to wear masks on the airplane? How can one judge in Florida end the mask mandate for the whole country? The end of the airline mask mandate is concerning since I have one child too young to be vaccinated.
I certainly appreciate your concern and will hopefully answer your question. Before I start, I would like to give you some background on the Federal Transportation Mask Mandate. In January of 2021, after being sworn in, President Biden signed an executive order making it a violation of federal law to ride public transportation without a mask.
US health officials scheduled the mask mandate to expire on April 18, 2022. However, on April 13, 2022, they extended the federal transportation mask mandate by 15 days in order to assess the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.
Why was the mask mandate struck down?
On April 18, 2022, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, a Tampa-based federal court judge, ruled that the federal transportation mask mandate was unlawful. Judge Mizelle struck down the mandate on two grounds:
- she found that the CDC exceeded the authority provided by Congress; and
- the enactment of the mandate violated administrative law, which prescribes a process that executive branch agencies must follow to make new policies.
First, Judge Mizelle ruled that the CDC lacked the authority to require masking on public transportation. She took a very narrow view of the Public Health Service Act, a 1944 law allowing the CDC to take certain measures to fight the spread of communicable diseases; the language of the statute refers to “sanitation” as a measure that may be required to be undertaken. Judge Mizelle took this to mean that the statute permitted the establishment of rules/regulations “that clean something, not ones that keep something clean” and mandatory masking was not a “sanitation” measure. Judge Mizelle concluded that requiring masking, regardless of infection status, was an overbroad application of the “detention” and “quarantine” protocols allowed by the Act. In other words, requiring masking of travelers who had not been determined to be infected exceeded the authority that Congress intended to be provided by the Public Health Service Act.
Second, Judge Mizelle held that the CDC’s mask mandate violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which sets administrative agencies’ procedures to set policy. Judge Mizelle stated that the CDC didn’t have a valid excuse for bypassing the masking rule’s public notice and comment requirements. The CDC did not provide an adequate explanation for why they implemented the masking requirement in the first place. Judge Mizelle referred to the fact that the pandemic was already a year old when the mandate was put in place; accordingly, the mandate was not put in place under emergency circumstances.
Of note, Judge Mizelle, a President Trump appointee, was rated by the American Bar Association as “not qualified” for appointment to the Federal bench due to lack of experience. Nonetheless, she was confirmed for life at the age of 33.
How does this ruling affect travel?
Judge Mizelle’s ruling put the authority to enact and enforce masking mandates back with individual airlines, ride-share companies, and other modes of public transportation.
Because of the ruling, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a federal agency, ended its enforcement of the mask mandate.
Some jurisdictions like New York and Chicago elected to keep in place mask mandates on public transit, all major airlines, Amtrak, Caltrain, SFMTA, and ride-share companies. Others have chosen to drop their mask mandates and instead recommend the use of masks while riding public transportation.
There are no longer any uniform rules surrounding masking on public transportation. It is best to have a mask should you be required to wear one.
How does one judge have the power to end the mandate?
Judge Mizelle struck down the mandate in a “nationwide” injunction (a national court order requiring an action or halting an action). However, she referred to her ruling as vacatur (eliminating an unlawful rule). The judge’s reasoning for her broad elimination of the mask mandate was that it would be too difficult to apply the injunction only to those that brought the lawsuit in the first place. A nationwide injunction applies to all jurisdictions everywhere within the United States.
The judge’s decision does not carry precedential weight. Other federal courts across the country are not obligated to follow her reasoning in handling similar future challenges to administrative regulations. However, if the ruling is appealed and upheld by the federal appellate court (which covers the Southeastern United States), it would set precedent for all other federal courts within the circuit. If the appeal reached the United States Supreme Court, a ruling upholding Judge Mizelle’s order would be binding nationwide.
What will happen now that the decision has been appealed?
On April 21, 2022, the Biden Administration asked the Department of Justice to file an appeal in the case. The appeal, if successful, would make clear that the CDC holds the power to make broad mandates in the interest of safeguarding public health. If unsuccessful, the opposite is true—a ruling that would hamper the authority of the CDC to act to protect the people from new and/or evolving public health threats.
State and local government would still maintain authority to issue rules and regulations to protect public health. However, regulations across the country would be inconsistent and piecemeal—arguably this lack of uniformity allowed the COVID-19 pandemic to claim so many US lives in the first year of the pandemic.
The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak is an ongoing, rapidly developing situation, and the local, state, and federal responses are regularly changing. The Dolan Law Firm makes efforts to keep the information on this page updated. However, it is necessary to confirm with publicly available federal, state, and local health organization guidance and government mandates to guarantee up-to-date information.
Written By Christopher Dolan and Carole Okolowicz
This week’s question comes from an anonymous writer who asks: If you are charged with a crime in California and do not understand English, you have a right to an interpreter in court. (Cal Const Art 1, Sec 14.) If you have an attorney, they may provide an interpreter; the court will provide one if you do not have an attorney. But, do you have a right to an interpreter in a non-criminal situation? For example, if a car hits and injures you, or your employer wrongfully fired you, and you have to file a lawsuit, do you have a right to an interpreter?
Let’s start at the beginning. One of the first decisions you make when you are injured or mistreated is whether to hire an attorney and which attorney to hire. Many California lawyers and law firm staff note if they speak languages other than English on their website. If you are unsure if the attorneys speak another language other than English, when contacting an attorney, you may want to ask a family member or friend to translate for you.
Next, during litigation, you may have to appear for a deposition as your case proceeds. A deposition is a question-and-answer session which does not happen in court but, you are still sworn in to tell the truth. You have a right to have an interpreter during your deposition, and your attorney will hire one for you. During your deposition, the lawyer for the other side asks you questions, you respond, and a court reporter types everything said, creating a record.
Last, it is very likely that you will never have to appear in court in your civil case. Most cases settle without ever going to trial. But if your case does go to trial, an interpreter must be provided for you. An interpreter must be provided for any witness “who is incapable of understanding the English language or is incapable of expressing himself or herself in the English language” in a way that can be understood by the attorneys, the court, and the jury. (Evid. Code 752(a).) This is a rule of evidence, meaning that if the witness cannot understand the questions and if the court cannot understand her answers, the witness’s testimony is not useful evidence – unless there is an interpreter.
Unlike in criminal court, a civil court will not pay for the interpreter if one is needed. (Evid Code 752(b)(2).) The cost of the interpreter is a cost of the lawsuit, just like the cost to file papers with the court and costs associated with depositions, for example. The party that loses the trial, could be you or the other side, may pay the costs. Or, you could pay it if you decide to settle out of court. You may decide it is worth it to settle for various reasons.
It is ultimately up to the court. The court may determine whether or not an interpreter is needed. Suppose you or anyone testifying in court appears to speak and understand the English language well enough to be understood. In that case, the court may determine that no interpreter is needed. However, your lawyers may decide to hire an interpreter regardless of the court’s determination. They want you to be able to provide your best testimony and fully understand what the court asks of you.
Because California is such a diverse state, there are interpreters for many different languages and dialects, including Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Hindi, Farsi, Portuguese, even some indigenous languages. Your inability to fully understand the English language should not be a barrier to getting legal representation when you have been wronged.