One of the sessions at the CCJ/COSCA conference revolved around immigration and, as part of that phenomenon, the increased demand for court interpreters to address language access in state courts. In addition to the demographic trend, three developments have spurred state court administrators to look at this compelling issue. First, COSCA issued a white paper on court interpretation* in late 2007, with the help of the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification** (now titled the Consortium for Language Access in the Courts). Second, the Brennan Center for Justice issued a report this year entitled Language Access in the Courts,*** which concluded that “across the nation courts are shirking their responsibilities.” That report has generated some controversy itself, for example Maryland reproached the Brennan Center for inaccuracies and stated:
The Consortium for Language Access in the Courts received little if any credit for all of its work and efforts to improve language access in state courts. As you know, it was established in 1995 as the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification. There are 40 States in the Consortium and not one State court interpreter program administrator was on the Committee that conducted this study. Some of the report recommendations were contrary to procedures we have adopted.
And third, we were advised that the Department of Justice has begun to ramp up its enforcement in this area, beginning in Maine and Indiana. Under DOJ regulations implementing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, recipients of federal financial assistance have a responsibility to ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities by persons with limited English proficiency (LEP); see 28 CFR 42.104(b) (2).
Here in Texas, the Texas Civil Rights Project recently met with me as it launched a project to educate judges and county policy makers about improving interpretation services, with the goal of changing policies that limit the access of individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) to state courts. TCRP advises that they have received numerous complaints about the treatment of LEP clients in Texas courts from local domestic violence (DV) organizations, as well as from their own in-house program helping immigrant victims of DV under the Violence Against Women Act. Anyone interested in learning more about the project is welcome to contact Abby Frank at TCRP, (512) 474-5073.
Ironically, my office has very little formal connection to court interpreters, because they are regulated through the Department of Licensing and Regulation,***** unlike other court actors – court reporters, guardians and process servers – where we staff the regulatory boards. Notwithstanding this structural anomaly, I do urge judges, clerks, court administrators, and court coordinators, to review the resources cited here and attend to the legitimate needs of individuals with LEP in the courts of Texas.
My apologies for these URLs, I cannot get embedded hyperlinks to work.