Arizona court: Can’t speak English? Forget about running for public office


Or even being appointed to one

By Howard Fischer

Capitol Media Services/East Valley Tribune

In a decision with statewide implications, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that candidates who are not proficient in English cannot even try to become an elected or appointed official. The justices said the requirement, which has existed since territorial days, is justified.

“Such a requirement helps ensure the public officer will in fact be able to understand and perform the functions of the office, including communicating with English-speaking constituents and the public,” Justice Robert Brutinel wrote for the unanimous court.

And Brutinel brushed aside arguments that the requirement is unconstitutional.

“There is no constitutional right to seek office,” he wrote. “And the language requirement reflects a legitimate concern of the Arizona Legislature.”

The court also noted that Friday’s ruling does not permanently disqualify Alejandrina Cabrera from running at some point in the future for the San Luis City Council — the post she was seeking when she was disqualified from the ballot earlier this year — or any other office.

“Should she obtain a sufficient English proficiency to perform as a city councilmember, she could then run for that office,” Brutinel wrote.

The court acknowledged that they voided a voter-approved constitutional amendment more than a decade ago which had adopted English as the state official language.


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