Photo: From left, Mayra Hernandez, Dr. Roberto Rosas, and Elda Rosales.
Motion for summary judgment. Demurrer. Complaint. These terms are common in a courtroom setting, but understanding the Spanish equivalent for them can be daunting, even for Spanish speakers.
Two University of La Verne College of Law students set out this fall to launch a new workshop to address this challenge. It is called in Español Juridico, or Legal Spanish, and it is helping attorneys, paralegals, and others to better communicate with their monolingual Spanish-speaking clients.
“We saw that there was a need to educate lawyers, students, and other courtroom personnel,” said Elda Rosales, one of the founding students.
Rosales discovered the issue while looking through paperwork at the law firm where she works. Although she is fluent in Spanish, she could not recognize many of the legal terms used in Spanish language documents. If they confused her, they might also be confusing to other Spanish speakers navigating the legal system, she surmised.
She and fellow law student Mayra Hernandez conducted research and found that there was, in fact, a need for programs on Legal Spanish in southern California’s Inland Empire, which has a Latino population of roughly 50 percent.
They pitched their idea to administrators and faculty at the University of La Verne College of Law, who agreed to support the workshop with funds from the Lewis Family Community Engagement Grant.
“It was a perfect fit,” Professor Placido Gomez said. “The Lewis Community Engagement Grant focuses on developing courses that have more of a direct impact on the local community.”
Gomez contacted a former colleague, Dr. Roberto Rosas, a professor at St. Mary’s School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. Rosas developed a two-day workshop on Sept. 22 and 23 to help legal personnel better serve the community.
Around 50 people attended, including law students from La Verne and other law schools, students from the University of La Verne’s paralegal studies program, and attorneys and other court personnel from the area.
“It was an overwhelming success,” Associate Dean Kevin Marshall said. “I was impressed with the initiative taken by Elda and Mayra. They came to me and explained that there was a gap that the law school could fill. The law school, the paralegal program, and the local legal community joined and began to fill that gap.”
College of Law Dean Gilbert Holmes said the workshop is another example of how the Lewis Family Community Engagement Grant is helping to enhance the law school’s curriculum.
“We have been able to develop a course highlighting how the criminal justice system affects immigration,” Holmes said. “The grant has also supported pop-up immigration clinics; one clinic this past weekend assisted students reapply for DACA. We are grateful to the Lewis family for its support.”
The students are now looking for ways to expand on the workshop.
“We will be proposing that the law school develop a class and make it part of its regular curriculum,” Hernandez said. “Our goal is to make it happen this year.”