Needs and Challenges
As a direct result of SJI support, there has been significant improvement and growth of language access programs and initiatives throughout the country. Over the past 5 years, we have seen a demonstrable increase in activities and programs geared toward improving language access services.
The majority of states, territories, and D.C. have developed language access plans, implemented interpreter training and certification programs, established oversight through commissions and coordinators, conducted trainings for judges and staff, and have explored technology options. Listed below by state are highlights of initiatives that jurisdictions have recently implemented.
Language Access Plans
In January 2015, the California Judicial Council adopted a Strategic Plan for Language Access in the California Courts. This was developed over the course of an 18-month effort by a Joint Working Group. A Language Access Implementation Task Force is currently overseeing the execution of the Plan. As mentioned above, NCSC has assisted with the implementation under two separate contracts with the Judicial Council.
In March 2017, the New York Unified Court System adopted a plan titled Ensuring Language Access: A Strategic Plan for the New York State Courts. The plan consists of 70 concrete actions to eliminate barriers for LEP and deaf or hard-of-hearing court users.
In March 2017, the Unified Court System of Pennsylvania adopted a Language Access Plan. The plan was developed by the Pennsylvania statewide Language Access Advisory Group (“LAAG”), consisting of judges, court administrators, court interpreters, legal service providers, and elected government leaders. It includes a three-year timeline of deliverables in the following areas: notice, translation, and signage; outreach, training, and evaluation; and services outside the courtroom.
In July 2016, the Minnesota Judicial Branch adopted a Language Access Plan. The purpose of the Statewide Language Access Plan is to provide a framework for the provision of timely and reasonable language assistance to LEP persons who come in contact with the Branch. It was developed with assistance from NCSC under an SJI technical assistance grant.
In March 2016, the Georgia Supreme Court Commission on Court Interpreters released a public draft of its Model Administrative Protocol for the Provision of Interpreters in the Georgia Courts. The MAP is a step-by-step guide designed to help state courts reliably and efficiently provide interpreters and other language services. It was developed with assistance from NCSC under an SJI technical assistance grant.
In 2016, Colorado completed the tasks outlined in its Language Access Plan, which was developed in 2011 in coordination with the Department of Justice. The Colorado Language Access Advisory Committee then began work developing a new Language Access Plan.
Training and Certification Programs
In 2016, Arizona implemented its Arizona Court Interpreter Credentialing Program (ACICP). ACICP provides for the credentialing of spoken-language court interpreters in Arizona. All staff interpreters are required to become credentialed at the Tier 3 or Tier 4 level by June 30, 2019. All new court employees are providing interpreting services hired after June 30, 2017 will be required to hold an Arizona credential at the Tier 3 or Tier 4 level. As of July 1, 2017, courts will be expected to show a preference for interpreters who are credentialed whenever contracting with freelance interpreters. NCSC assisted with the development of ACICP through an SJI technical assistance grant.
Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee
In July 2015, four state court interpreter programs (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee) collaborated to sponsor the 2015 Legal Interpreting Seminar at UALR’s William H. Bowen School of Law and the Pulaski County Courthouse, focusing on continuing education for spoken and sign language interpreters. Sixty-eight interpreters from 17 states participated in the event.
CLAC Working Group
In 2016, a CLAC Working Group on Language Neutral Training Materials produced a Resource Guide for Court Interpreters.
Also, a CLAC Working Group is currently evaluating the development of legal glossaries for languages in need of standard reference materials.
SJI Curriculum Adaptation Grant Awarded to Oregon in June 2016 – Languages Other Than Spanish (LOTS) Oral Exam Preparation Activities. A cohort of 10 Scholarship recipients were invited for a year-long oral exam prep year of activities. Participants were selected from those who have successfully passed the written exam in the past, applied by deadline, and agreed to attend all sessions.
In DC, a Language Access Advisory Committee was formed in May 2016. Internal and external stakeholders are active in studying DC Courts’ LAP and presenting recommendations and conducting research to further the goals of the LAP in coordination with the LAP coordinator.
In 2016, Idaho created a formal Language Access Office. This office has been responsible for many tasks. Some of the most important have included the provision of direct coordination and interpretation services for all counties. Additionally, increased efforts have been made to improve recruitment and enhance collaboration with local universities, and refugee organizations.
New and amended Kansas Supreme Court rules relating to language access became effective on July 1, 2016. These rules: (1) require chief judge appointment of a local language access coordinator in each judicial district; (2) set forth the responsibilities of local language access coordinators; (3) create the Kansas Code of Professional Responsibility for Court Interpreters (based on the Model Code); and (4) require spoken language interpreters to sign an Interpreter's Acknowledgment and Agreement form prior to interpreting in a district court which verifies that the interpreter has received and reviewed the Code and agrees to adhere to it.
Nebraska legislature funded a newly created Statewide Language Access Coordinator position, and that position was filled in October 2015.
In Florida, effective October 1, 2015, rule amendments governing court interpreters require all court interpreters to register with the Office of the State Courts Administrator prior to providing services in any court proceeding or court-related proceeding.
On August 3, 2015, Pennsylvania commenced deployment of LADC which allowed them to gather detailed information about the use of interpreters and provision of language access services throughout all judicial districts. Each district’s Language Access Coordinator is responsible for gathering the information for each district and entering it into the LADC. They create reports about the number of cases, languages, location, type of case, interpreter’s names and qualifications, costs, services provided, outcomes, etc. The tool is designed and built by their IT unit using a Microsoft program called CRM.
New N.C. Standards for Language Access were approved on April 30, 2015. Language Access Coordinators were appointed and trained statewide to assist with efficient scheduling and disseminating language access information.
In December 2014, the Iowa Supreme Court approved a substantial set of revisions to the Iowa Court Rules on Interpreters and Translators (Chapter 47) and the Code of Professional Conduct for Court Interpreters and Translators (Chapter 48). Both became effective on July 1, 2015.
Training and Educating Judges and Court Personnel
The Language Access Basic Training program is a downloadable interactive training module for bilingual court employees who interact with people outside of the courtroom, developed by the New Mexico Center for Language Access along with the NCSC, the Council of Language Access Coordinators (CLAC) and the Language Access Advisory Committee (LAAC). It was funded by the State Justice Institute.
Tennessee, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada, Georgia, Louisiana, and New York
Tennessee has an information card for court clerks to provide guidance related to appointment of interpreters.
Numerous states have produced bench cards for judges on working with court interpreters. These include Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada, Georgia, Louisiana, and New York
In July 2014, a video remote interpreting (VRI) assessment was completed with the support of an SJI grant.
Additional SJI-supported VRI needs assessments have been conducted in Indiana, Nevada, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Assessments are under way in Maine and Illinois.
In May of 2013, Minnesota produced a Bench Card on Video Remote Interpreting in the Courtroom.
In March 2017, the Judicial Council of California announced a pilot project to evaluate VRI and test VRI technology in the courts, pursuant to recommendations in the Judicial Council’s Strategic Plan for Language Access in the California Courts.
In June of 2014, the Supreme Court of Florida proposed to study VRI as a statewide solution and pursued funding for the initiation of a pilot program in the trial courts. The initial phase began with a pilot program which included five circuits: 7th, 9th, 14th, 15th, and 16th.
The Arizona State Judiciary has implemented the use of VRI services in various courtrooms by appointment, across the state. An interpreter room, located in the Administrative Office of the Courts in downtown Phoenix, is equipped with video equipment which can connect an interpreter in the Phoenix area to a courtroom in a distant county via a video connection. The use of VRI is intended for shorter hearings where having an interpreter onsite is cost prohibitive.
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