ALBUQUERQUE, NM - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed a discrimination complaint yesterday with the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of Selene Alverio, a deaf woman who was denied an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter by the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court and Judge Daniel Ramczyk during a November 2018 civil dispute hearing. Although Ms. Alverio requested an interpreter approximately two weeks before the hearing, which was well before the court’s deadline of forty-eight hours advance notice, as well as several times during her hearing, all of her requests were denied.
“When Judge Daniel Ramczyk refused to provide Ms. Alverio with an ASL interpreter, he not only denied her the ability to effectively represent herself, he also denied her basic respect and dignity,” said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. “Such blatant demonstrations of discrimination and hostility undermine the integrity of the bench and have no place in our courts.”
Although Ms. Alverio can understand some spoken language with the assistance of cochlear implants and by reading lips, the background noise in the courtroom combined with the distance between her and the judge, as well as the accent and position of the opposing party, made it impossible for her to fully understand what was transpiring. Ms. Alverio asked Judge Ramczyk several times throughout the proceeding for an interpreter, but he refused, calling her an “obstructionist” and accusing her of being dishonest about her ability to understand.
“It was humiliating,” said Ms. Alverio. “I told Judge Ramczyk on several occasions that I was having trouble following, but rather than showing concern or sympathy, he belittled me and accused me of lying. I left the courtroom feeling completely disheartened.”
The ACLU of New Mexico is requesting that the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice investigate the incident of discrimination and require Judge Ramczyk and Metropolitan Court staff to undergo training regarding their obligations to provide accommodations for deaf individuals under the American Disabilities Act.
A copy of the complaint, including a full transcript of the interaction, is available below.