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English-only driver's license suit likely to proceed

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:06 p.m. HST, Apr 11, 2014

A federal judge is not inclined to dismiss a lawsuit alleging Hawaii discriminates against those with limited English skills by making it difficult for them to obtain a driver's license.

U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway said in court documents that the allegations are thin but sufficient enough at this stage of litigation. She outlined her thoughts ahead of Monday's hearing on the state's motion to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit filed last year by Faith Action for Community Equity was based on Hawaii's English-only policy for obtaining driver's licenses. The state argues the lawsuit should be dismissed because the Department of Transportation began offering the test in various languages last month. But the plaintiffs argue other issues remain, including road testing issues and translation of educational materials, such as the driver's handbook.

The lawsuit claims that challenges for those with limited English skills in obtaining a driver's license hinder access to employment, education and health care.

Attorneys on both sides declined to comment until after the hearing.

Mollway notes that her inclination is only a summary of her thinking before hearing oral arguments. She's expected to issue a written order after the hearing.

"Assuming the truth of these allegations, the court is inclined to say that plaintiffs' allegations of discriminatory intent are thin, but they barely survive the present motion," the judge wrote.

Mollway acknowledged that the state has started offering the translated tests but said the state hasn't proven that's enough to render the lawsuit moot.

"While the state offers evidence suggesting that it was 'acting in good faith when it changed its policy,' the court is inclined to say that such evidence does not satisfy the state's 'heavy burden of showing that the challenged conduct cannot reasonably be expected to start up again,'" she wrote.

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Anonymous wrote:
I'm all for helping people with limited English skills qualify for a driver's license but they have an obligation, in return, to at least learn enough English to be able to read and understand the posted street signs for everyone's safety.
on April 11,2014 | 12:35PM
serious wrote:
I could not agree with you more. All of our elder generations came from a foreign country and they learned this is America--soon the signs will be printed in gay--sorry!!
on April 11,2014 | 12:56PM
Pocho wrote:
if it passes. We'll need traffic signs in different languages
on April 11,2014 | 04:21PM
Masami wrote:
Driving is a PRIVILEGE and not a right. You come to this country LEARN THE LANGUAGE. And "we" wonder why this country is turning wussy.
on April 11,2014 | 12:56PM
al_kiqaeda wrote:
Turning??? We're there.
on April 11,2014 | 03:37PM
niimi wrote:
But that's racial, cultural discrimination!!!
on April 11,2014 | 04:31PM
Ronin006 wrote:
That is bull.
on April 11,2014 | 04:47PM
Too_Much_Pilikia wrote:
Are these applicants of legal status or are the requirements going the way of California......driver's licenses for all?
on April 11,2014 | 01:01PM
niimi wrote:
In California they generously translate everything into 38 different languages.
on April 11,2014 | 04:30PM
Bdpapa wrote:
A bunch of enablers. Speak and read English should be mandatory for this privilege!
on April 11,2014 | 01:29PM
Masami wrote:
When you go to someone's house, you don't make them change THEIR RULES.
on April 11,2014 | 01:45PM
kiragirl wrote:
Foreigners! Don't like it? Go back home. We didn't ask you to come here. Knowing how to speak and read English should be a requirement for US citizenship. So if you're not a US citizen, you got no say!
on April 11,2014 | 01:47PM
glick wrote:
Amen. You hit the nail right on the head!
on April 11,2014 | 03:10PM
mellishi wrote:
...be careful about getting into a taxi cab with a cab driver from another country (majority of our cab drivers have a difficult understanding where we want to go)..., let alone understand - " get on the freeway and head Diamond Head and turn off onto Pali Highway and go mauka for 2 miles and right on Laimi"!!!
on April 11,2014 | 03:38PM
Masami wrote:
Not sure why this got sent for approval yet if one goes to another's home, they abide by that home's rules. Pretty simple.
on April 11,2014 | 02:06PM
entrkn wrote:
America speaks English...
on April 11,2014 | 03:37PM
niimi wrote:
No anymore the way things are going.
on April 11,2014 | 04:31PM
Ronin006 wrote:
That’s right. Liberal policies are Balkanizing the United States. Providing everything to foreigners in their native languages is contrary to the principles on which our nation was founded, one of them being “E Pluribus Unum,” (Out of many, one). The United States has survived as the greatest nation on earth for 238 years because its citizens, native born and immigrants, believed in and followed the guiding principle that “United we stand; divided we fall.” Given the way liberals are taking the country, it will not be long before the United States becomes the Late Great United States of America.
on April 11,2014 | 05:19PM
sailfish1 wrote:
Do you know that "E Pluribus Unum" is not English? It is Latin.
on April 11,2014 | 09:24PM
Cricket_Amos wrote:
Which is not a spoken language. You're point?
on April 12,2014 | 07:06AM
onoahu wrote:
What they really need to do is to put a time limit (say 5 minutes) on the test and require a score of 100%. If you're driving, you don't have time to ponder the rules - Hmm...what does that sign mean...hmm...I'm I supposed to yield here? Nor do you have the luxury of getting one wrong.
on April 11,2014 | 03:41PM
KB wrote:
prioritize the resources Wow we constantly work on exceptions every one can give and take ..do not set up more government offices that do not get smaller ..
on April 11,2014 | 03:46PM
niimi wrote:
WE NEED road signs in all the languages too. Otherwise it is discrimination against immigrants.
on April 11,2014 | 04:30PM
koolau wrote:
Why? Some don't read the signs we already have.
on April 12,2014 | 07:31AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Can someone please name one country other than the United States that permits foreigners to take driver license tests in a language other than that of the host country?
on April 11,2014 | 04:45PM
koolau wrote:
We need people in government with the same grittiness as the Australian Prime Minister once stated, in essence "......if you can't conform to the Australian way of life, don't come here."
on April 12,2014 | 07:44AM
localguy wrote:
For those with limited English skills it directly hinders access to employment, education and health care. Solution? English as Second Language (ESL) courses. If you want to take advantage of all this country has to offer, simply learn the language. Sad to see those in the legal field fail to understand this.
on April 11,2014 | 04:53PM
soundofreason wrote:
These people come here to get away from WHERE they came from. So now they want to come here and make it like "home"?
on April 11,2014 | 07:21PM
naialani wrote:
i understand the problem.... but a lawsuit over English in a English speaking country.. (eyeroll)
on April 11,2014 | 07:22PM
sailfish1 wrote:
Why aren't they suing because bus schedules are only available in English?
on April 11,2014 | 09:30PM
scooters wrote:
Learn our language if you want to live here. If not, go back where you came from and be happy there.
on April 12,2014 | 07:05AM
Cricket_Amos wrote:
Equity - code word for stealing what is not yours, and what you have not earned.
on April 12,2014 | 07:08AM
keola2011 wrote:
If you can't read the traffic signs in English, why the heck are we going allow you to drive on the road?
on April 12,2014 | 07:12AM
koolau wrote:
The law "....... hinder access to employment, education and health care." It's difficult to understand why an educated Judge would take that argument into consideration as reason not to dismiss they case. If isn't one of the causes of "entitlement", we're headed for bigger problems as a community, a state, and as a nation.
on April 12,2014 | 07:38AM
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