Chicano-Latino Law Review
Serving on a jury is one of the most integral components of participation in our democratic society. Everyday the judicial system places their confidence in the juror’s ability to abandon their emotions and predilections in order to reach an impartial decision. Given the frequency in which the courts entrust such a responsibility to monolingual English speakers, why have they not afforded the same deference to their bilingual counterparts?
The Supreme Court’s holding in Hernandez v. New York, essentially created precedent that would prevent bilingual speakers from being selected to perform jury service; the rationale being that bilingual jurors would not be able to submit to the English translation of testimony and evidence after having associated their own notions and images to the original language used. This decision disregards the real judicial objectives of discovering the truth and, given the common connection between an individual’s ability to speak multiple languages and their racial and ethnic background, creates a fine line between favoritism on the basis of language and racial discrimination.
Legislatures and courts should avoid sacrificing the integrity of the judicial process and instead adopt the view that bilingual ability facilitates and maintains the strength of the fact-finding process and should be sought after instead of obstructed
Bill Piatt, Of Pigeonholes and Prospective Jurors, 14 Chicano-Latino L. Rev. 61 (1994).