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.

ABA Standards – NCAJ staff served on the New York Office of Court Administration’s Court Interpreter Advisory Committee and on the American Bar Association’s Advisory Group on Language Access Standards.

Justice Index Findings – The Justice Index, created by NCAJ as an on-line resource for promoting adoption of best policies in state justice systems, ranks the states based on their adoption of selected best policies for interpreting and translating. Media coverage, government reports, and court planning documents concerning the Justice Index findings are located here, some of which specifically feature the Justice Index findings on language access policies in the states. See, for example, Report: Language Access in State Courts, U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (September 2016) and Rebecca Beitsch, In Many Courtrooms, Bad Interpreters Can Mean Justice Denied, Stateline (August 17, 2016).

Report from NCAJ:  In Language Access in the Federal CourtsLaura Abel, deputy director of the Center (2012-2013), establishes 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, often 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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