Hospital translator challenge
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
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.