Hospital translator challenge dismissed
Associated Press
Mar. 9, 2005
Judge: Plaintiffs didn't show harm

SAN DIEGO - A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging a Clinton administration policy that requires many doctors and hospitals to provide translators for patients who speak little English.

In a ruling announced Tuesday, Judge Barry Moskowitz said the plaintiffs did not demonstrate how they were harmed by the policy, which applies to all doctors and hospitals that receive federal funding.

The lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was filed in August by several physicians and a group supporting English as the nation's official language. They contended the policy is an expensive and intrusive burden on doctors and limits their right of free speech.

Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative law firm in Sacramento that represented the plaintiffs, said it would appeal the dismissal.

"The court got it wrong," attorney Sharon Browne said. "Asking doctors to pay for and be legally responsible for the competency of translations for hundreds of foreign languages defies common sense."

The U.S. attorney's office did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Clinton created the policy in 2000 by issuing an executive order. Supporters have said that patients with limited English skills need to fully understand their doctors.

The plaintiffs, including a San Diego orthopedic surgeon, the nonprofit group ProEnglish and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, argued that the policy improperly interprets civil rights law to include language.

A similar lawsuit filed in 2001 in Virginia also was dismissed.