Today, the Justice Department released a new tool to help state and local courts assess and improve their language assistance services for limited English proficient (LEP) litigants, victims and witnesses who need access to court services.
With over 25 million LEP persons in the United States, the Language Access Planning and Technical Assistance Tool for Courts (Planning Tool) will be able to assist courthouses and administrative tribunals across the country to self-assess their court systems to determine how effectively they are providing language assistance services and how these services can be improved. The Planning Tool prompts courts to examine their court rules, the quality and competency of interpretation and translation, the level of their engagement with LEP communities and the implementation of language access plans. Courts also are encouraged to modify this tool for the particular needs and features of their court and court system.
The tool was created by the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS) of the Civil Rights Division. FCS enforces Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, under which it is illegal for federally assisted programs and activities to discriminate on the basis of national origin, which includes the failure to provide meaningful language access. The Planning Tool gives courts a tailored checklist of recommended steps towards achieving equal access to justice for all.
“Providing meaningful access to court systems and proceedings is not only required by law, it is the right thing to do and it is in the best interests of the judicial system,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Jocelyn Samuels. “When language barriers remain in place, limited English proficient individuals are not provided a meaningful opportunity to participate in important matters, and the results can be catastrophic, which is why this Planning Tool is such a vital instrument for our judicial system.”
The Planning Tool was previously released for public comment and received numerous recommendations from individuals and organizations representing judges, court staff, attorneys, advocates and community groups, which have been incorporated into the final version. For further information, please visit the Federal Coordination and Compliance website (http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/cor/). For additional LEP-related resources, please go to the Federal Interagency LEP website (www.lep.gov).