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Sam Chan et al v. the Judicial Council of California

September 15, 2011

SAM CHAN ET AL., PLAINTIFFS AND APPELLANTS,
v.
THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF CALIFORNIA, DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT.



(Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. GC 042262) APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Edward C. Simpson, Judge. Affirmed.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Flier, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Appellants are previously licensed court interpreters in Mandarin, Russian, or Armenian who failed to comply with new licensing requirements. Prior to 2009, interpreters in those languages became eligible to interpret by passing English language proficiency examinations. Respondent the Judicial Council of California, beginning in 2009, required that appellants and other interpreters in certain languages pass bilingual proficiency exams. At the same time, respondent granted automatic eligibility to interpreters who had helped develop the new exams. Appellants appeal from the trial court's grant of a summary judgment to respondent. Appellants assert due process and equal protection claims. We affirm.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Appellants' complaint alleged: (1) respondent violated appellants' due process rights by requiring that they pass new rigorous certifying exams by February 1, 2009, in order to remain court interpreters; and (2) respondent violated appellants' equal protection rights by allowing certain interpreters to be grandfathered in or temporarily exempted from these new certifying exams without offering appellants the same opportunity. Appellants also sought a judicial determination as to whether the February 1, 2009 certification deadline applies to appellants and a permanent injunction preventing respondent from enforcing the current certification requirement against the affected court interpreters.

In response, respondent filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion, ruling that (1) appellants' due process cause of action cannot be established because there is no protectable property interest in being a certified interpreter; (2) appellants' equal protection cause of action cannot be established because they were neither similarly situated to the interpreters who were on a 1996 list of approved interpreters (there is no such list in the record) nor to the five subject matter experts who were certified without having to take the certification exams; and (3) appellants are not entitled to declaratory or injunctive relief. Appellants filed a timely appeal.

FACTS

The material facts in this case are undisputed. In 1990, the Chief Justice of California gave respondent control over the administration of California's court interpreter licensing regime.*fn1 (Gov. Code,*fn2 § 68560, subd. (d).) Respondent then contracted with the testing entity Cooperative Personnel Services (CPS) to help develop and administer licensing exams.

In 2000, respondent designated Mandarin, Russian, and Armenian (hereinafter affected languages) as languages requiring more rigorous court interpreter examinations.*fn3 Accordingly, all court interpreters in the affected languages were subsequently required to pass a certification exam.*fn4 CPS selected a number of interpreters, described as subject matter experts (SME's), to help develop certification exams. CPS did not select any of the appellants to serve as SME's. After developing the new exams, CPS recommended granting five of the SME's automatic certification because they helped create the exams. Respondent then granted these five SME's certification.

CPS finished creating the certification exams in 2004. Due to a number of grace periods and exemptions, however, five of the nine appellants were given until February 1, 2009, to obtain certification and four were given until February 1, 2010.*fn5 Appellants failed to obtain certification and subsequently filed this suit.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

"In reviewing the summary judgment, we independently examine the supporting and opposing papers to determine whether they reveal any material issue of fact and whether the moving party was entitled to judgment as a matter of law." (Bernson v. Browning-Ferris Industries (1994) 7 Cal.4th 926, 929; see also Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (c).) We strictly construe the moving party's evidence and liberally construe the opponent's evidence. (Branco v. Kearny Moto Park, Inc. (1995) 37 Cal.App.4th 184, 189.) The material issues must be set out in the complaint. (See Keniston v. American Nat. Ins. Co. (1973) 31 Cal.App.3d 803, 812.) The affidavits and declarations disclose whether there are triable issues of facts. (Orange County Air Pollution Control Dist. v. Superior Court (1972) 27 Cal.App.3d 109, 113.)

DISCUSSION

1. Due ...


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