National Center for Access to Justice

Language Access

Courts function acceptably only when judges, witnesses, parties and other people in the courtroom understand each other.  When participants have limited proficiency in English, courts may need to provide interpreters, translate documents, and offer other language assistance. The National Center for Access to Justice works to ensure that courts, lawyers, litigants, and members of the public understand the importance of adequate language access in the courts. Center staff have served on the New York Office of Court Administration’s Court Interpreter Advisory Committee and participated in the American Bar Association’s Advisory Group on Language Access Standards. The Justice Index, created by NCAJ as an on-line resource for promoting adoption of best practices in state justice systems, includes a sub-index ranking states based on their adoption of policies that promote selected best practices for linterpreting and translating, at http://www.justiceindex.org/findings/language-assistance/.

Report from NCAJ:  In Language Access in the Federal CourtsLaura Abel, deputy director of the Center (2012-2013), reports that federal district courts often deny interpreters to LEP parties and witnesses, particularly in civil cases; fail to ensure the competence of interpreters, particularly in languages other than Spanish; and, do not make forms and information available in languages other than Spanish. The Report maps out a reform agenda for the federal district courts and for the specific bodies that regulate the federal courts.  The Report, with the exception of its executive summary, originally appeared in The Drake Law Review, 61 Drake Law Review 593 (2013).


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