ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A deaf woman said a metro court judge denied her the right to a sign language interpreter during a civil hearing, and now she’s speaking about her experience.
On Nov. 6, 2018, Selene Alverio showed up at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court for a hearing. She said she told Judge Daniel Ramczyk that she needed an American Sign Language interpreter but that Ramczyk denied her request.
“I felt like I was this small child and there was this huge man in front of me, pointing his finger at me telling me ‘You need to stop misbehaving ma’am,'” Alverio said. “I felt belittled. I was very sad and depressed for a while.”
The metro court requires those who need accommodation for a disability to contact the court’s Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator no later than 48 hours before the scheduled court date, which Alverio did about two weeks prior, but her request was denied. The day she appeared in court and Judge Ramczyk she needed an interpreter, it was also denied.
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits any “public entity,” including courts, from excluding anyone with a disability from its programs, services or activities or otherwise subjecting them to “discrimination.”
“I knew he was wrong, and I felt, like, violated on so many levels because he didn’t even give me an opportunity to speak,” Alverio said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and Alverio filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice against Ramczyk and the court.
“He denied her the ability to defend herself,” said Katie Hoeppner, with the ACLU of New Mexico. “He also denied her basic respect and dignity, and that kind of behavior just has no place in our courts.”
Alverio hopes no one else gets treated this way. She also believes this all could have been avoided had the judges had proper training when it comes to accommodating those with disabilities.
“I would ask that he would have been much more compassionate and understanding of my situation and more patient with me, instead of angry and defiant,” Alverio said.
A spokesperson for the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court sent a statement to KOAT saying the court cannot comment on pending litigation, but the spokesperson did say that Ramczyk is no longer with the metro court. He’s now been appointed as a district judge.