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SJI Support for Language Access in the State Courts

Since the mid-1990s, state courts have implemented various strategies in an effort to ensure access to justice for limited English proficiency (LEP) individuals. Most state courts provide foreign language interpreters in criminal cases, and more are providing interpreters in civil, domestic relations, and other court proceedings.  Several factors have pushed state courts to establish policies and standards for serving LEP individuals, including recognition that there should at least be a common agreement that every court aspire to provide these services as a matter of fairness.

Since FY 2006, SJI has invested approximately $2.7 million in grants on this issue.  These include projects on interpreter training, remote interpreting, and forms translation.  In addition, the SJI Board established Language Access as a Priority Investment Area for grant funding in November 2011.

In FY 2012, SJI awarded a grant to the NCSC, in collaboration with CCJ and COSCA, to host a National Summit on Language Access in the Courts. This Summit, which was held October 2012, enabled state courts to share successful strategies and evidence-based practices, and propose implementation strategies that are consistent among the states.  Each state team that attended the Summit is working to develop or improve statewide plans to address the problem of serving LEP individuals.  A National Call to Action report documenting the Summit’s outcomes and strategies for implementation of language access plans was widely disseminated.

In FY 2013, SJI awarded a grant to the NCSC’s Language Access Services Section that provides direct technical assistance on this critical issue, and in FY 2014 SJI provided support for the National Virtual Remote Interpreting (VRI) Capability. State courts will be able to use the VRI to provide interpreters remotely, thereby increasing access and reducing costs.