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National Call to Action Addresses Limited English Proficiency in the State Courts

During the Annual Meeting of the Conference of Chief Justices/Conference of State Court Administrators (CCJ/COSCA), the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) released National Call to Action, Access to Justice for Limited English Proficient Litigants: Creating Solutions to Language Barriers in State Courts. The Call to Action represents the culmination of a multi-year SJI-funded project aimed at addressing limited English proficiency in the state courts, which included a National Summit on Language Access in the Courts held in 2012. The Call to Action presents an overview of important data the NCSC collected during the assessment of the courts, which was conducted prior to the convening of the Summit. It also provides a summary of the Summit, in addition to action steps that state courts can use to implement or improve language access programs.

In addition to the Call to Action, SJI has provided support to the NCSC’s newly established Language Access Services Section to provide direct technical assistance to the state courts on this critical issue. Specifically, NCSC will:

  • Assist states through COSCA, CCJ, and the Language Access Advisory Committee (LAAC) in developing consistent national standards for increased ability to share resources, including the ability to share interpreters, tests, and training opportunities;
  • Assist in the creation of regional and/or national databases of interpreter resources, and increase capacity through remote interpreting;
  • Conduct state and local courts needs assessments;
  • Assist state and local courts with developing LEP plans, including assistance in determining when interpreter resources are required, and the necessary resources, as a part of case management;
  • Develop model training for judges and court staff on cultural and interpreter use issues;
  • Develop instructions and bench cards for judges to explain to courtroom participants how interpreters are best used in the courtroom;
  • Evaluate gaps with meeting DOJ guidelines, and establish a plan of action to address those gaps; and,
  • Similar to what courts have done with Americans with Disabilities (ADA) issues and security threats, establish a clearinghouse to collect data on LEP complaints in order to assist courts in addressing these issues.