LEP Self-Represented Litigants
How Can Courts Address the Need for Interpreters? 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. For the self-represented litigant with limited English proficiency, the challenges in accessing judicial services are even more difficult.
According to the 2010 Census, there are approximately 25 million who speak a foreign language at home and whose English-speaking ability is at the level "less than "very well." The Census Bureau report "Language Use in the United States" (April 2010) identifies the top six non-English languages in the United States as: Spanish, Chinese, French/Creole, Vietnamese, Korean and Russian.
The following resources provide guidance on this issue:
National Summit on Language Access in the Courts.
This October 2012 summit agenda contains links to resources and materials presented at the summit on topics including understanding the legal context, components of a language access plan, remote interpreting, training and technology.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Carola E. Green and Wanda Romberger. Leveraging Technology to Meet the Need for Interpreters. National Center for State Courts, Future Trends in State Courts. (2009).
Wanda Romberger. Language Access Centers: A Win-Win Idea. National Center for State Courts. 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.
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.
Uekert, Brenda. Tracy Peters, Wanda Romberger, Margaret Abraham, and Susan Keilitz. Serving Limited English Proficient (LEP) Battered Women. 209 pages. (June 2006). This study explored the capacity of Limited English Proficient (LEP) petitioners to receive orders of protection.
. This Howto.gov website provides information on making websites accessible to people with limited English proficiency.
See a state by state list of court interpreter programs.
More and more state courts are providing online forms, videos, and information in Spanish and other languages particularly in the area of domestic violence. Here are links to many of these online forms. If your court has forms that should be added to this list please let us know:
How to represent yourself (Spanish) in a domestic violence proceeding:
Arizona translated forms:
California has a huge array of forms, instructions and videos in multiple languages:
Orders of protection and domestic violence documents are available in English and Spanish
Publications & Videos in Spanish http://www.jud.ct.gov/pub-spanish.htm
District of Columbia
Georgia courts use the Google translate software but have included the following disclaimer:
Indiana Supreme Court website is available in Spanish with a wealth of online resources http://www.in.gov/judiciary/selfservice/2363.htm
Small Claims Forms in Translation- http://www.mass.gov/courts/forms/translated/small-claims/
Foreign Translations of Selected SCAO Approved Forms http://courts.michigan.gov/scao/courtforms/foreign/forindex.htm
Language of Justice: Limited English Proficiency Court Rule This video explains how a new court rule helps ensure consistent, meaningful access to Michigan courts for those who are not proficient in English.
The petition for order of protection is available in English, Spanish, and Bosnian http://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=533
Information for Victims of Domestic Violence is available in Spanish, Haitian Creole, Bengali, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, and Russain http://www.nycourts.gov/forms/familycourt/domesticviolence.shtml
Interpreter Services Program Forms Translation Project http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/JCS/interpreterSvcs/forms/default.asp
Protection from abuse documents are translated into the eleven most commonly encountered languages in the Pennsylvania court system.
Criminal protective order documents are translated into five languages
Protective Order Kit
English version [pdf] | Spanish version [pdf]
The protective order form in Spanish
Domestic Violence Forms (translations in several languages) http://www.courts.wa.gov/forms/?fa=forms.contribute&formID=16
Spanish forms for Domestic Violence http://www.courts.wa.gov/forms/?fa=forms.static&staticID=19&language=Spanish
Other Spanish forms http://www.courts.wa.gov/forms/?fa=forms.static&staticID=19&language=Spanish
Selected forms are available in Spanish