Language Access

Resource Guide

The state court community has long been cognizant of the need for the effective use of court interpreters to improve access to justice for Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals. Demographic trends make it clear that the American judicial system faces mounting difficulties in meeting the challenge of ethnic and linguistic diversity. In an effort to move towards greater awareness of these challenges, combined with the determination to implement programs to improve interpreting services, a growing number of state court systems have instituted certification and continuing education programs and have prescribed codes of professional responsibility for court interpreters. The newly-established 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. LASS works closely with the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) through the Language Access Advisory Committee (LAAC) and the Council of Language Access Coordinators (CLAC).

Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.


Featured Links

Vagenas, Konstantina et al. Wisconsin Remote Interpreting: Needs Assessment for Developing a Pilot. (July 2014).

National Center for State Courts. This assessment identified counties and developed an action plan to pilot remote interpreting services within these counties. 

Language Access Services Section (LASS).

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.

A National Call to Action Access to Justice for Limited English Proficient Litigants: Creating Solutions to Language Barriers in State Courts. (July 2013). National Center for State Courts. This National Call to Action provides a roadmap of logical solutions to issues identified as priorities at the October 2012 Summit in Houston, Texas attended by nearly 300 judicial leaders from 49 states, 3 territories and the District of Columbia.
Perez-Chambers, Maria and Ashley Tucker. Delaware's Successful Strides Toward Language Access in the Courts. (2012). Future Trends in State Courts.

Delaware’s Court Interpreter Program is a state-funded, centralized program that coordinates all the Delaware courts’ language service needs.  Detailed records of all interpreter services used permit Delaware to focus on adequate funding for this program and to anticipate current and future needs of Delaware’s limited-English proficient population.

Federal Court Interpretation Program.

Spanish-English Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination homepage.

Issue: Access to Justice. Government Relations describes the impact, position, and summary on the issue of Access to Justice in Congress.
Remote Centralized Interpreting.

Presentation from the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the National Court Technology Conference regarding centralized interpreting services in the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida.

General

LEP.gov.

Limited English Proficiency federal government website.

Language Access Planning and Technical Assistance Tool for Courts . (February 2014). Federal Coordination and Compliance Section Civil Rights Division U.S. Department of Justice

This language access planning and technical assistance tool for courts was created by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (DOJ), to assist courts and court systems as they develop comprehensive language access programs.

ABA Standards for Lanaguage Access in Courts. (February 2012). American Bar Association.

These standards intended to assist courts in designing, implementing, and enforcing a comprehensive system of language access services that is suited to the needs of the communities they serve.

Guide to Translation of Legal Materials. (April 2011). Professional Issues Committee, Consortium for Language Access in the Courts and the National Center for State Courts.

This translation guide was compiled and edited by the Consortium for Language Access in the Courts’ Professional Issues Committee, a committee of volunteers dedicated to advancing the work of the state courts’ language access programs. It is meant to compile some lessons learned by program managers over the years and serve as a guide to help other program managers move forward with translation projects within their own court system.

Carola E. Green and Wanda Romberger. Leveraging Technology to Meet the Need for Interpreters. (2009). Future Trends in State Courts 2009.

State courts, faced with the steadily increasing necessity to provide interpreting services, are identifying innovative uses of technology to maximize existing interpreter resources, while remaining fiscally responsible.

Zahorsky, Rachel M. Webcams the Solution for Court Interpreter Shortages?. (January 2009). ABA Journal Law News Now This article suggests that using video conferencing or telephone interpreting may be the answer to the shortage of qualified court interpreters in state courts.  One solution is to link certified interpreters through the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification.
Wanda Romberger. Language Access Centers: A Win-Win Idea. (2008). Future Trends in State Courts 2008.

The creation of a central recruiting, training, testing, and scheduling center for providing foreign-language interpreters is not just a theory anymore.  Alaska has created its Language Interpreter Center under the auspices of the Alaska Immigration Justice Project, anidea that can be replicated by other courts.

White Paper on Court Interpretation: Fundamental to Access to Justice. (November 2007). Conference of State Court Administrators This white paper provides a review of the current state of court interpretation nationally and makes recommendations for future improvements.
Wanda Romberger. Interpreters in Civil Cases. (2007). Future Trends in State Courts 2007.

This article discusses the adoption of an interpreter program in state courts. The article looks at the details and provisions of this program and how it helps courts function more smoothly and how it helps non-natives to better understand court proceedings.

Martin, Lorena. Security for Court Interpreters. (2006). 310 pages. NCSC, United States Marshals Service, and National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators.

This manual, designed especially for court interpreters, covers basic security; the cycle and dynamics of aggression; in-court and out-of-court proceedings; defendant and inmate issues; weapons; travel to and from the workplace, as well as domestic and international travel; dealing with emergencies; personal safety.

Uekert, Brenda et al. Court Interpretation in Protection Order Hearings: Judicial Benchcard. (June 2006).

This Judicial Bench Card gives guidance on providing qualified interpreters to assist the parties in protection order proceedings so that petitioners with limited English proficiency are on equal footing before the bench.

Hewitt, William, Paula Hannaford, Catherine Gill, and Melissa Cantrell. Court Interpreting Services in State and Federal Courts: Reasons and Options for Inter-court Coordination.. (October 1998).

Explains court interpreting services in state and federal courts by examining the Consortium, whose purpose is to find qualified interpreters through rigorous testing.

Hewitt, William and John Richardson. Managing Language Problems: A Court Interpreting Education Program for Judges, Lawyers, and Court Managers.. (1997). 139 pages. Model Guide 3

Due to the influx of immigrants and refugees in the U.S., courts must eliminate linguistic barriers to ensure fair access to justice. This educational program for judges, attorneys and court managers teaches several aspects of court interpretation (such as the role of the interpreter, findings of court Task Forces, etc.) to ensure efficiency, understanding and cooperation.

Hewitt, William et al. Special Issue. (1996). State Court Journal; Volume 20. Number 1 Special Issue of the State Court Journal that explores the challenges that linguistic diversity poses to maintaining a unified standard of justice in American courts.
Hewitt, William, Shedina Lockley, Pamela Casey, and John Richardson. Court Interpretation: Model and Guides for Policy and Practice in the State Courts. (June 1995). 239 pages.

Improving access to justice for linguistic minorities is but one of many challenges facing courts as the century draws to a close, and the financial capacity of most state courts is inadequate to address them all effectively. This resource book examines language interpretation problems and responses at several levels -- courtroom, local, state, and national.

American Translators Association. ATA is a professional association founded to advance the translation and interpreting professions and foster the professional development of individual translators and interpreters.
National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators. A non-profit organization dedicated to the furtherance of the judiciary interpreting and legal translation profession.
Widener Law School Court Interpreter Program. Paraprofessional programs leading to degrees and certifications.

State Related Resources

Nebraska Judicial Branch Language Access Plan. (January 2014). The Administrative Office of the Courts & Probation, Nebraska Supreme Court. This Language Access Plan was created in order to facilitate the goal of providing uniform language access to Nebraska State Courts and Probation Services regardless of the language spoken by the court user.
Language Access Planning for New Mexico State Courts: Final Grant Report . (August 2013).

New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts. This report details the project which developed sixteen locally-tailored language access plans for 100% of district and 87% of magistrate courts in New Mexico.

Arkansas State Courts Limited English Proficiency Plan. (January 2013). Administrative Office of the Courts This plan was based on an extensive study of the LEP population in the state.
Recommended Guidelines for Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) for ASL-Interpreted Events.

(2012). Judicial Council of California/Administrative Office of the Courts. This guide, approved by the California Court Interpreters Advisory Panel, offers assistance to court and judicial staff in identifying when Video Remote Interpreting may be appropriate for American Sign Language interpreted events. In addition, this guide identifies minimum technology requirements for VRI and a self assessment for ASL interpreters planning to provide VRI services.

W.Va. courts to showcase remote language interpreter system for judges from 8 states, DC. (March 2012). The Washington Post Court officials from eight states and the District of Columbia will observe two mock trials in West Virginia that will provide a demonstration of the state’s multi-cast videoconferencing unit.  The state provides free interpreters in all criminal and civil settings, including hearings, trials and dealings with court personnel.
Strategic Plan for Implementing Enhanced Language Access in the Colorado State Courts. (March 2012). Colorado Judicial Department This document sets forth the plan for the appointment, utilization and payment of language access services provided and arranged for by the Colorado state courts, and by governing access to court proceedings and court operations by persons with limited English proficiency.
Recommendations for the Provision of Court Interpreting Services in Florida’s Trial Courts. (November 2010). Supreme Court of Florida Commission on Trial Court Performance & Accountability This report provides proposed general recommendations, standards of operation and best practices for court interpreting services.
Abel, Laura Language Access in State Courts. (July 2009). Brennan Center for Justice This report examines the extent to which the 35 states with the largest limited English proficiency populations comply with the guidelines regarding providing interpreters in all civil cases free of charge and ensuring that interpreters are competent.
Technology links Madison court interpreter to courts in Door, Trempealea. (Spring 2009). The Third Branch The Wisconsin court system performed a test linking a court interpreter in Madison to courtrooms in Door and Trempealeau counties.
Supreme Court Adopts Court Interpreters Amendments. (December 2009). Supreme Court of Ohio The Supreme Court of Ohio will begin the certification of court interpreters in 2010. The certification includes a written examination developed by the Consortium for Language Access in the Courts, an arm of the National Center for State Courts.
Schauffler, Richard, Carola Greene, Wanda Romberger, and William Hewitt. The Provision of Court Interpreter Services in Civil Cases in California: An Exploratory Study. (January 2008). Research Services.

This report highlights best practices in the delivery of court interpreter services.

Romero, Bruno G. Interpreters in the Judicial System: A Handbook for Ohio Judges. (2008). The Supreme Court of Ohio This handbook is designed to help judicial officials understand the role of judiciary interpreters, assess their qualifications and select and work with them.
A Guide for Iowa Court Interpreters. (August 2008). Iowa Judicial Branch This online interpreter guide provides an overview of the program, including court rules that apply, requirements for interpreters, appointment of interpreters, certification requirements, and compensation.
Working with Foreign Language Interpreters in the Courtroom. (February 2007). Ohio Supreme Court A Bench Card for Judges from the Ohio Court Interpreters Program containing policies and procedures for dealing with persons of limited English proficiency in the courtroom.
Romero, Bruno G. The Supreme Court of Ohio Report on the Use of Interpreters in Ohio Courts. (2006). Supreme Court of Ohio An action plan set forth by the Ohio Racial Fairness Implementation Task Force to better fulfill the needs of the non-English-speaking and the deaf/hard-of-hearing populations in Ohio courts.
Best Practices Manual on Interpreters in the Minnesota State Court System. (2003). Minnesota Supreme Court Interpreter Advisory Committee This manual is a first of its kind and serves a reference manual for their court interpreter program. 
Working with Sign Language Interpreters in Texas: A Bench Card for Judges. The passage of the ADA was intended to ensure equal access to persons with disabilities. In such, Texas judges have a critical role in ensuring persons who are deaf or hard of hearing have communication access to the justice system. Texas courts must provide an equally effective opportunity for deaf and hard of hearing people to participate in the legal process that is offered to others citizens.
Steelman, David and William Hewitt. Operational Review of the Provision of Court Interpreter Services in the Courts of Massachusetts. (February 2001). Court Services Divison.

A technical assistance report of an operational review of the Administrative Office of the Trial Court of Massachusetts.  NCSC staff provides 26 recommendations to improve operations.

Improving Interpretation In Wisconsin`s Courts. (2000). Madison: Committee to Improve Interpreting and Translation in the Wisconsin Courts A report on court-related interpreting and translation with recommendations on statute and rule changes, budget items, interpreter-training programs and certification tests, and judicial and professional education programs
Centralized Remote Interpreting. Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida In an effort to keep up with the rising demand for interpreters, the Ninth Circuit has created the remote centralized interpreting system.
Court Interpreter Program Unit. California Courts Provides a host of information about court interpreting. See especially their FAQ's Page.

Interpreters for the Deaf

Mathers, Carla Deaf Interpreters in Court . (March 2009). The National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers

This report examines the issue of providing a deaf-hearing interpreting team as a reasonable accommodation in specific situations where a hearing interpreter alone is not sufficient.

Communication Access in State and Local Courts. (2008). National Association of the Deaf Information is provided for advocates to use in educating courtroom personnel on provision of appropriate court access to deaf individuals.
Working with Interpreters for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing in the Courtroom . (May 2007). Supreme Court of Ohio A Bench Card for Judges from the Ohio Court Interpreters Program containing rules and procedures for meeting the special needs of deaf or hard of hearing in a court environment.
Professional Sign Language Interpreting. (2007). Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. This Standard of Practice Paper provides a framework of basic standards for the professional practice of sign language interpreting.

Limited English Proficiency LEP

Promising Practices for Language Access in Federal Administrative Hearings and Proceedings. (2012). This report discusses the challenges and solutions for providing language assistance services to limited English proficient individuals in administrative hearings and proceedings that came out of a September 22, 2011 Workshop.
Language Access Assessment and Planning Tool for Federally Conducted and Federally Assisted Programs. (May 2011). U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.

This publication offers an overview of the essential factors needed to properly implement meaningful court access to LEP individuals. It includes a self-assessment for all federal agencies regarding their LEP plans, as well as develops language access directives, plans, and procedures.

U.S. Department of Justice Letter to the state chief justices and state court administrators . (2010).

This letter dated August 16, 2010 clarifies application of Title VI and the Safe Streets Act regulations to language access in the courts. “DOJ has an abiding interest in securing state and local court system compliance with the language access requirements of Title VI and the Safe Streets Act and will continue to review courts for compliance and to investigate complaints.”

Uekert, Brenda. Tracy Peters, Wanda Romberger, Margaret Abraham, and Susan Keilitz. Serving Limited English Proficient (LEP) Battered Women. (June 2006). 209 pages.

This study explored the capacity of Limited English Proficient (LEP) petitioners to receive orders of protection.   The primary language resource that should be provided by the courts is interpretation, preferably carried out by certified interpreters.

Supporting Limited English Communities. (July 2005). This 22-page report summarizes results from a survey that determined the extent to which people with limited English proficiency (LEP) are being served in Weed and Seed communities. The report also provides tips on how to develop LEP programs.
Executive Order 13166: Limited English Proficiency Resource Document: Tips and Tools from the Field. (September 2004). U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
Letter to the State Court Administrators on LEP Policies and Procedures. (December 2003). The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice sent this letter to court administrators across the country to discuss the impact of Executive Order 13166 concerning people with limited English proficiency.
<i>Alexander v. Sandoval</i>. (2001). 532 U.S. 575 The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that private individuals cannot sue a grantee to challenge the lack of LEP services provided under Title VI.  Accordingly, the only remedy for an individual who is denied access to programs by lack of LEP services is to file a complaint with the Civil Rights Section of the Department of Justice or the Department of Health and Human Services.
Executive Order 13166: Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency.. Civil Rights Division. U.S. Department of Justice, Coordination and Review Section Listed here are Title VI-related guidance, links, and resources on Executive Order 13166, which require federal agencies to improve access to services by individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).
National LEP Advocacy Task Force. The National LEP Advocacy Task Force advocates for the rights of individuals in the U.S. described by the federal government as (LEP).
Reducing Language Barriers to Combating Domestic Violence: The Requirements of Title IV. Battered Women`s Justice Project This document provides support and planning for supporting victims of domestic violence with limited English proficiency by determining the program’s obligation to provide LEP services, implementing a language-assistance plan, and identifying the types of language-assistance services available.  It also explains the specific requirements for state agencies, including law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, corrections, and shelter programs.
The Legal Services Corporaton. has compiled a list of documents and reports relating to serving clients with limited English proficiency.  Links are provided to a number of articles, projects, and Web sites, including LEP.gov .
The Summit/Lorain Project: Resource Document for Law Enforcement: Interpretation and Translation Services. Summit County Sheriff Department and the City of Lorain (Ohio) Law Enforcement.  Report focuses on policies and procedures for law-enforcement officers to serve and protect limited English proficient persons. 

Testing Programs

Federal Court Interpreter Program. Administrative Office of the United States Courts