LANGUAGE ACCESS AT NCSC
The Language Access Services Section (LASS) provides state courts with resources to overcome language barriers in the courts and to ensure that providing individuals with limited English proficiency with access to the courts is a core function of the courts.
Issue: Court Interpreter Legislation
Approval of this legislation would allow states to access federal funds to support state court interpreter programs in areas such as certification, training, and general support.
State court leaders endorse the concept of a federal court interpreter program assisting the state courts.
In the 110th, 111th, and 112th Congresses, Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) introduced legislation, the State Court Interpreter Grant Program Act, which would have authorized a grant program to support court interpreter efforts in the states (S 1329). His bill would have authorized $15 million (M) in each of the fiscal years 2010-2015. The Department of Justice would award the grants. The grant program followed the model of the Court Improvement Program. The highest state court of each state would be eligible to apply for the funds. States applying for the grant would receive a base amount of $100,000. The remainder of the funds in the appropriated pool would be distributed to the states applying for funds based on the percentage of individuals (5 years or older) who speak other than English in the home.
The court interpreter legislation was included in Senator Robert Menendez’s comprehensive immigration reform bill (S. 1258) in the 112th Congress. This bill was introduced 6/22/11.
Most recently, Senator Kohl introduced the State Court Interpreter Grant Program Act of 2012, S. 3365, on 7/10/12. There were differences between his previous bill and S. 3365: For example: overall funding was reduced to $10M, the technical assistance funds were eliminated, and a change was made in the formula for distributing the funds. The reduction in the proposed funding level was a result of the fiscally austere times.
Senator Kohl retired at the end of the 112th Congress.
Government Relations office staff is looking for a new sponsor for the Court Interpreter bill. Additionally, attempts were made to include the court interpreter bill to the Senate immigration reform legislation, but it has not been included thus far.