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Judge Who Told Man Not to Speak English

October 17, 2003

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ A judge who told a man to speak to his daughter primarily in English stepped down from the case Thursday, accusing his critics of misinterpreting his comments.

Sarpy County District Judge Ronald E. Reagan told the father during a Sept. 15 visitation hearing that he should communicate with the 5-year-old girl primarily in English for the sake of her education.

``The principal form of communication during the periods of visitation is going to be English,″ Reagan said at the hearing. ``That does not mean that you can’t instruct and teach her the Hispanic language.″

Reagan said his findings were ``based on common sense and courtesy″ and the girl was frightened during a visit when no one, including her father, would speak English. Eloy Amador only recently met his daughter because he was serving a five-year prison sentence for drug possession, his attorney has said.

Reagan said his findings did not constitute an order because he had not formally signed off on his instructions to Amador. He said that he was stepping down because people might think any other action he took in the case had resulted from media pressure.

The father argued that he spoke Spanish to the girl to share his culture with her, not to force a language on her. Since the hearing, nine people in Omaha asked to meet with Reagan to discuss possible cultural bias in his courtroom. State Sen. Ernie Chambers filed a complaint with the state Commission on Judicial Qualifications, calling the ruling discriminatory.

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