Justice Department Issues Guidance Letter to State Courts Regarding Their Obligation to Provide Language Access

Department of Justice

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Justice Department Issues Guidance Letter to State Courts Regarding
Their Obligation to Provide Language Access

 WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today issued a letter to chief
justices and administrators of state courts clarifying the obligation of
courts that receive federal financial assistance to provide oral interpretation, written translation and other language services to people who are limited English proficient (LEP). This month marks the 10th anniversary of Executive Order 13166 which requires federal agencies to ensure that recipients of federal financial assistance comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by providing meaningful access to LEP persons.

Today's letter provides state courts guidance regarding the requirement
to provide meaningful access to their programs and services for LEP
persons through the provision of language services, pursuant to the
prohibition against national origin discrimination contained in Title VI
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe
Streets Act (Safe Streets Act), and their implementing regulations. The
letter includes an overview of applicable civil rights laws, Supreme
Court precedent, guidance and illustrative examples of situations that
would warrant the provision of language services.

 The letter explains that applicable civil rights laws require courts
receiving federal financial assistance to provide meaningful access to
all civil, criminal or administrative hearings, at no charge to LEP
individuals. It further explains that such access should be extended to
LEP parties and other LEP individuals whose presence or participation is
appropriate to the court proceedings; should be provided in court
programs or activities outside of the courtroom; and should include
language services for communication between LEP individuals and court
appointed or court managed service providers.

"Justice requires that all individuals have meaningful access to the
critical services provided by the nation's state court systems,
regardless of the individual's English language skills," said Thomas E.
Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "As we
mark the 10th anniversary of the issuance of Executive Order 13166 this
month, it is especially appropriate to remember our shared
responsibility to reduce persistent language barriers in court
proceedings and services that are of such importance to the daily lives
of parties, victims, witnesses and the public."

 For more information about Title VI and the Safe Streets Act, or to
obtain copies of the letter, visit www.lep.gov.

(To read original article, visit this Department of Justice link)

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