Judge in language flap stepping away from case

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Wed Oct 22 14:29:14 UTC 2003

>>From the Omaha World-Herald, October 17, 2003



The Sarpy County judge who told a Latino father to avoid speaking Spanish
to his child during visitation has removed himself from the case, saying
he didn't want further action of his to be attributed to an outcry over
his remarks.  Sarpy County District Judge Ronald E. Reagan has removed
himself from the controversial case.

Having concluded that stepping down was necessary, District Court Judge
Ronald E. Reagan explained his earlier comment that Eloy Amador not "speak
Hispanic" to the 5-year-old daughter he recently met after his release
from prison.

"That requirement was simply based on common sense and courtesy - at this
time, the English language is the only language his daughter understands,"
Reagan wrote. "How will she learn any of the Hispanic cultural values if
explained in a language she is unable to speak?"

The judge's handling of the case elicited accusations of cultural bias and
attention from out-of-state news media and from community leaders.

Reagan said his decision had been based on comments from the child's
mother and her lawyer, not any expert.

"The minor child had been frightened during a visit because no one,
including her father, would speak in English, the only language she
understood," the judge said.

Reagan said he did not mean that Amador could not teach Hispanic cultural
and ethnic values. "I'd feel, and rule, the same way if roles were

He also agreed to meet with a group, including some bilingual parents, who
wanted the judge to "get to know" them.

Amador is bilingual and has denied that he spoke only Spanish to his
daughter, Destinie.

Reagan's recusal means the case will be reassigned.

Kelle Westland, attorney for the child's mother, Michaela Krayneski, said
the development does not change their position.

"I have no problem with Destinie being bilingual, learning her heritage,"
Krayneski said. "We want to keep his visitations consistent until she
bonds with him."

Krayneski, 26, had said earlier that she would prefer Amador - who was
recently released from five years in prison for selling drugs and
possessing a weapon - to bow out of the child's life.

Amador's attorney, John Sellers, was unavailable for comment.

Amador said he is worried the delay will keep him from seeing the

Krayneski and her attorney said Amador doesn't have to wait for the final
order and could see the child as soon as he sets up supervised visits with
the specialist who would monitor their get-togethers the next eight weeks.

Jose Garcia, a member of the group that called for a meeting with the
judge, said he still is concerned about cultural bias in the judicial
system and will continue efforts to educate.

"It's a problem that is not going to go away with one judge stepping from
the fray," he said.


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