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Celebrating 10 years of progress in language access services

Celebrating 10 years of progress in language access services

November 1, 2023 -- More than a decade ago, the first National Summit on Language Access in the Courts and a publication titled A National Call to Action charted a roadmap for courts to remove language barriers in court proceedings.

Last week, NCSC’s Language Access Services Section (LASS) hosted a webinar with the CCJ/COSCA Access and Fairness Committee and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to celebrate progress made by courts providing meaningful access to programs and services for court users with LEP.

“This webinar was an inspiring reminder of the progress we have made together over the last 10 years, from creating robust Language Access Plans and training for judges, court staff, and interpreters to incorporating video remote interpreting and bilingual artificial intelligence chatbots,” said Briana Stone, NCSC principal court management consultant. “This celebration also kicks off what we intend to be a series of dialogues geared toward creating a shared vision for where our work to advance language access in state and local courts is headed now.”

United States Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke and Connecticut Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson opened the conversation by emphasizing the importance of providing individuals with LEP equal access to the courts to ensure access to justice.

State courts have shown progress by creating statewide language access coordinators, extending services to civil court proceedings, and eliminating interpreter fees, to name a few. Panelists from New Mexico, Louisiana, and Nebraska discussed current and future initiatives. They emphasized that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and each diverse community will have different needs and solutions.

To support courts, NCSC created LASS, which houses the Language Access Advisory Committee and the Council of Language Access Coordinators. LASS provides resources for court leaders, program managers, and court interpreters, including resources for interpreter examinations and a Video Remote Interpreting Resource Center. LASS also offers educational conferences and training, including a Tiny Chat video about working with interpreters.

Watch the Oct. 26 webinar on the NCSC Vimeo channel and visit the NCSC website or email Briana Stone for more information about language and disability access.

Arizona judge honored with Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation

Maricopa County (Ariz.) Superior Court Judge Pamela GatesMaricopa County (Ariz.) Superior Court Judge Pamela Gates is the recipient of the 2023 G. Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation for her efforts to change jury service by improving the juror experience and alleviating financial obstacles.

Paula Hannaford-Agor, director of NCSC’s Center for Jury Studies, presented the award to Judge Gates during an Oct. 27 judicial education training in Arizona.

Judge Gates was honored for her work on Arizona's "Plan B" Workgroup, which provided guidance to the state's trial courts for resuming jury trials during the pandemic, and for chairing Arizona's Task Force on Jury Data Collection, Policies, and Procedures. Her efforts with the task force included working with judges, lawyers, court staff, and researchers to modify jury selection practices following the elimination of peremptory challenges in Arizona courts.

Nominators recognized Judge Gates's thoughtful leadership style, especially during contentious policy discussions while chairing workgroups, and her commitment to bringing together diverse viewpoints.

Visit the NCSC website to read the full announcement.

(Photo courtesy of the Judicial Branch of Arizona in Maricopa County)