A proposed state law requiring interpreters for jurors who don't speak English fueled pushback Friday in Kane County.
Officials said the change, which also would affect Cook, Lake, DuPage and Will counties, would be an added drain for a service the county already has a hard time keeping within its budget.
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Chief Judge Judy Brawka told county board members providing interpreters is already a difficult and costly process in Kane County's courtrooms. The county offers interpreters mainly to criminal defendants, but officials also take the extra non-mandated step of providing them for all parties involved in orders of protection cases.
Last year, the county ran $105,000 over budget in interpreter costs. Brawka suggested the bill will be much higher for taxpayers if state lawmakers approve SB977, which sailed through the state senate without opposition earlier this week.
The bill would create a two-year pilot program in the five counties. They'd be required to provide an interpreter to any juror whose predominant language is not English. The interpreters would be paid by the county with no additional funding help from the state.
"Right now, to be a juror, we require you be at least 18 years old, of good moral character, and be able to speak and understand the English language," Brawka said. "They are going to lift that requirement to understand English. Each juror could potentially have their own interpreter. That will have a significant impact."
Brawka said she'll need an army of interpreters for a rainbow of languages on standby for every jury selection if the legislation passes. She called on county board members to oppose the bill.
The current legislative session is scheduled to end later this month. That doesn't allow time for county board members to send an official resolution opposing the bill through its normal committee process.
County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen said such formal action shouldn't be needed. The bill is egregious enough, he said, that every county board member should pick up a phone to lobby against it.
"I'm shocked by what I just heard," Lauzen said of the pending impact to the county. "The official language in the United States and Illinois is English. What does it mean to have an official language if the language in the court system is not going to be English."