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SJI Addresses Limited English Proficiency and the State Courts

During the December 10, 2012 meeting, the Board approved a $500,000 Strategic Initiatives Grant (SIG) to the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to address limited English proficiency (LEP) issues. The NCSC’s newly established Language Access Services Section is uniquely positioned to provide direct technical assistance to state courts on this critical issue. Most recently, the NCSC has worked with courts across New England, assessing their language access services and helping them find ways to share interpreters on a regional level. The NCSC also assisted the Tennessee Judiciary in conducting a summit of stakeholders to plan for providing language access services at no cost in civil cases throughout the state. Under a grant from CISCO, the NCSC is developing standards and best practices for remote video interpreting.

As part of these efforts, the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) created the Language Access Advisory Committee (LAAC) to increase the visibility of this work, and provide a better means of addressing policy issues impacting each state. LAAC is composed of COSCA members, with several state level language access coordinators as technical advisors. LAAC will provide direction to the work of the NCSC Language Access Services Section that will coordinate all LEP work and policy.

For this SJI-funded project, the NCSC will:

  • Assist states through CCJ, COSCA, and the 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 court needs assessments, including levering technology to improve business processes and performance measurement;
  • 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;
  • Disseminate information about the effective ways to respond to, and manage, the many facets of LEP individuals and their impact on the state courts;
  • 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 complaint in order to assist courts in addressing these issues.