For Immediate Publication


The California Federation of Interpreters, Local 39000 condemns the public statements made yesterday by Los Angeles Court CEO Sheri R. Carter at a Town Hall meeting.

Presented in the wake of the COVID-19 deaths of several court workers – two court interpreters and a Twin Towers bailiff – Ms. Carter's statements clearly had the intention of shifting blame for their deaths onto the court employees themselves. 

The statements were baseless and slanderous; additionally, they underscore the court's failure to seriously address the public health crisis still taking place in the county's courthouses. 

Local 39000 has documented a systemic failure by the court to implement policies to adequately safeguard language interpreters, court bailiffs, and other courthouse workers from contracting COVID-19. A particular failure being the lack of creating and adequately expanding remote court hearings and services, such as video remote interpreting for its language access to the courts, to keep to keep staff, public, and justice partners safe from infection during the pandemic.

The two interpreters, Sergio Cafaro and Daniel Felix, died of COVID-19 after infectious outbreaks in courthouses.  Court administrators neither recommended nor instructed interpreters to quarantine when the outbreaks first became known and denied requests for emergency paid leave when interpreters sought to self-quarantine. 

In the wake of these tragic deaths, Ms. Carter should have led a serious and sober discussion of this health and safety issue which is still ongoing and becoming even more acute with newer more virulent strains of COVID. It is unfortunate that court’s CEO instead degraded the Town Hall by launching spiteful personal attacks on court employees.

Local 39000 seeks a constructive dialogue with Ms. Carter and other court administrators, so that proper policies and work accommodations can be set in place, ensuring that court employees are provided a safe and healthy work environment during this pandemic.  

Begonya De Salvo
Local 39000 Steward
(323) 708-9902


Press Release
For Immediate Publication 

COVID-19 Outbreak in Los Angeles County Superior Court Results in Deaths of Two Court Interpreters 

Nearly two dozen interpreters at Clara Shortridge-Foltz Courthouse and at Bellflower Courthouse were exposed to COVID-19. Court administrators did not instruct them to quarantine. Two of their colleagues, Sergio Cafaro and Daniel Felix, later died.

LOS ANGELES, CA – January 22, 2021 – Nearly two dozen Spanish-language court interpreters employed by the Los Angeles Superior Court recently exposed to COVID-19 were not instructed to quarantine and now two have died, prompting local union officials to demand that the court provide safer work accommodations for interpreters during the pandemic.   

"Based on what we have heard, these deaths could have been prevented" said Mike Ferreira, President of the California Federation of Interpreters (CFI), Local 39000.  "For the most part, the ongoing concerns of court interpreters have been ignored by management and now we are dealing with a tragedy that is growing every day."   

The outbreak at the Clara Shortridge-Foltz Courthouse in downtown L.A. began on Thursday, December 10 when a court reporter working in Department 32 tested positive for COVID-19. Court administrators immediately shut down the courtroom.

A female Spanish-language interpreter who had worked the entire week in Department 32 reported the exposure to her supervisors in the court's Language Services Division – who told her that she did not need to worry and denied her request for paid leave so she could quarantine. As a result, the interpreter – whose identity is confidential – continued to work in multiple courtrooms, alongside 17 fellow interpreters, in the downtown courthouse.

Three days later, on December 13, she tested positive for COVID-19.

Even after the interpreter's positive test, court administrators neither recommended nor instructed that other interpreters with whom she had contact quarantine and denied numerous requests by interpreters to take paid leave so that they could quarantine.  One interpreter, Sergio Cafaro, continued to report to work, taking no time off. On December 18, Cafaro fell ill with COVID-19.  He died on January 12.

A similar outbreak occurred at the Bellflower Courthouse, where four Spanish-language interpreters are assigned to work.

A female Spanish-language interpreter in Bellflower – her identity is confidential – began feeling ill on December 8. Three days later, on Friday, December 11, she tested positive for COVID-19, and shared her positive result with an interpreter, Daniel Felix, who had worked alongside her.

Felix then immediately informed his supervisor via text of his exposure to his positive co-worker – he noted that he was having body aches and feeling tired – and asked how he should proceed.  The supervisor appeared to dismiss the threat, replying via text: "Continue working as long as you don't have symptoms or come into close contact with a positive person."

Court administrators also issued no warning or instructions to two other interpreters in the Bellflower courthouse.

Felix continued reporting to work the following Monday and Tuesday, December 15 and 16. At the end of his workday on the 16th, he learned he was positive with COVID-19, and stayed home the rest of the week. Felix was admitted to the hospital on December 20. He died on January 17.

"These lethal outbreaks occurred because an interpreter was forced to come to work after an exposure, combined with the insufficient compliance with safety protocols in the courthouse," said Begonya De Salvo, a union steward with CFI Local 39000. 

Both Los Angeles City and County ordinances require employers with more than 500 workers to provide supplemental paid sick leave to employees who need to take time off due to COVID-19. 

Unfortunately, these ordinances do not apply to federal, state, or local government entities. Following the Los Angeles city ordinance, an executive order issued by Mayor Eric Garcetti expressly exempted "employees of government agencies working within the course and scope of their public service employment."

Consequently, court administrators are under no legal obligation to provide supplemental sick leave, often referred to as Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) to employees who are sick from COVID-19 or who need to quarantine after a potential exposure.

Some Spanish-language court interpreters went home to self-quarantine, even though administrators had not instructed them to leave and quarantine, nor authorized any supplemental paid leave. The court's Language Services Division notified some interpreters that their self-quarantine constituted unauthorized leave. Eventually, administrators granted some degree of supplemental paid sick leave to most of the interpreters after the union and the interpreters pressed the administrators for action – but by then the infection already had spread.

CFI Local 39000 is pressing court administration to take proactive preventative measures when interpreters report possible exposure to COVID-positive persons, immediately implementing policies allowing for automatic quarantine with wage coverage through Emergency Paid Sick Leave, expanding telework for employees with high risk medical conditions, and providing relief for workers with dependent care impacts due to the pandemic. 

Begonya De Salvo
Local 39000 Steward
(323) 708-9902