Wednesday, September 5, 2001
ACLU Drops English-Only Court Fight in Utah
By LINDA THOMSON, Deseret News Staff Writer
The American Civil Liberties
Union of Utah has decided not to appeal a district court's upholding of
the new "English-only" law because many of the ACLU's plaintiff's fears
have been assuaged by the district court and the Utah State Attorney General's
"The reason we're not appealing
is because we won," Stephen Clark, legal director for the ACLU of Utah
The statute was approved
by voters last November, and the ACLU filed suit the next month to overturn
the law. Third District Court Judge Ronald Nehring later issued a 15-page
ruling that substantially limited the scope of the law.
"Although Judge Nehring upheld
the statute, he ruled that it was largely symbolic and it can't really
be used to deprive people of government information or services based on
language proficiency," Clark said.
"Given that, and given the fact
that the attorney general has decided to appoint someone to advise state
agencies on the proper scope of the law, we concluded that the risk of
language discrimination under the color of state law is substantially diminished,"
"When Judge Nehring dramatically
limited the language, and when the attorney general basically said, 'We'll
make sure that narrow interpretation is applied,' we basically said, 'We've
got a victory here. Instead of waging a sort of symbolic battle, let's
focus on concrete things,'" Clark said.
If the ACLU decided to appeal,
its brief had to be filed by Sept. 4. Clark said a month-long review produced
the decision not to proceed any further.
When the statute became official,
"We were afraid that state agencies would read the statute and say, 'We
can't provide information for services in any language other than English,'
" Clark said. "Courts around the country have concluded that was a serious
constitutional problem. That's why we filed the (original) lawsuit."