This is great news. The ABA Language Access Project of SCLAID and the Conference of Chief Justices, and the Conference of State Court Administrators have agreed on Language Access Standards. (Or, to be more precise, the Standards go before the House of Delegates at the next meeting, and the Boards of CCJ and COSCA have agreed to support passage.)
Here are some key extracts from the Resolution passed by those Boards:
WHEREAS, over the last four months representatives of the ABA, the National Center for State Courts, and the Conferences have spent considerable hours working in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration developing a revised document to include a mutually agreeable format and language for the standards; and
WHEREAS, the revised standards are aspirational and provide guidance for implementation of the standards; and
WHEREAS, as a result of these discussions, the Conferences’ major concerns have been addressed in the revised standards;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators support passage of the revised Standards for Language Access in the Courts by the ABA House of Delegates at the 2012 ABA Midyear Meeting: and
. . . .
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Conferences, as a part of their continuing efforts to ensure equal access to justice for LEP individuals in courts, will convene a national summit in October 2012 in Houston, Texas to bring together chief justice-led state teams comprised of representatives from all three branches of government and the state bar to develop state specific strategies for improving access to justice for limited English proficient individuals.
That the courts will be supporting these standards is very good news indeed for access.
Here is the text of the Standards themselves. The full text of the Standards, with Commentary and Best Practices, is now here.
STANDARD 1 FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES
1. As a fundamental principle of law, fairness, and access to justice, and to promote the integrity and accuracy of judicial proceedings, courts should develop and implement an enforceable system of language access services, so that persons needing to access the court are able to do so in a language they understand, and are able to be understood by the court.
STANDARD 2 MEANINGFUL ACCESS
2. Courts should ensure that persons with limited English proficiency have meaningful access to all the services, including language access services, provided by the court.
2.1 Courts should promulgate, or support the promulgation of, rules that are enforceable in proceedings and binding upon staff, to implement these Standards.
2.2 Courts should provide notice of the availability of language access services to all persons in a language that they understand.
2.3 Courts should provide language access services without charge, and may assess or recoup the cost of such services only in a manner that is consistent with principles of fairness, access to justice and integrity of the judicial process, and that comports with legal requirements.
2.4 Courts should provide language access services in a timely manner.
STANDARD 3 IDENTIFYING LEP PERSONS
3. Courts should develop procedures to gather comprehensive data on language access needs, identify persons in need of services, and document the need in court records.
3.1 Courts should gather comprehensive language access data as well as individualized language access data at the earliest point of contact.
3.2 Courts should ensure that persons with limited English proficiency may self‐ identify as needing language access services.
3.3 Courts should establish a process that places an affirmative duty on judges and court personnel to provide language access services if they or the finder of fact may be unable to understand a person or if it appears that the person is not fluent in English.
STANDARD 4 INTERPRETER SERVICES IN LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
4. Courts should provide competent interpreter services throughout all legal proceedings to persons with limited English proficiency.
4.1 Courts should provide interpreters in legal proceedings conducted within courts and court‐annexed proceedings.
4.2 Courts should provide interpreter services to persons with limited English proficiency who are in court as litigants, witnesses, persons with legal decision‐making authority, and persons with a significant interest in the matter.
4.3 Courts should provide the most competent interpreter services in a manner that is best suited to the nature of the proceeding.
4.4 Courts should provide interpreter services that are consistent with interpreter codes of professional conduct.
STANDARD 5 LANGUAGE ACCESS IN COURT SERVICES
5. Courts should provide appropriate language access services to persons with limited English proficiency in all court services with public contact, including court‐managed offices, operations, and programs.
5.1 Courts should provide language access services for the full range of court services.
5.2 Courts should determine the most appropriate manner for providing language access for services and programs with public contact and should utilize translated brochures, forms, signs, tape and video recordings, bilingual staff and interpreters, in combination with appropriate technologies.
STANDARD 6 LANGUAGE ACCESS IN COURT‐MANDATED AND OFFERED SERVICES
6. Courts should ensure that persons with limited English proficiency have access to court‐mandated services, court‐offered alternative services and programs, and court‐ appointed professionals, to the same extent as persons who are proficient in English.
6.1 Courts should require that language access services are provided to persons with limited English proficiency who are obligated to participate in criminal court‐mandated programs, are eligible for alternative adjudication, sentencing, and other optional programs, or who need to access services in order to comply with court orders.
6.2 Courts should require that language access services are provided to persons with limited English proficiency who are ordered to participate in civil court‐mandated services or who are otherwise eligible for court‐offered programs.
6.3 Courts should require that language access services are provided for all court‐ appointed or supervised professionals in their interactions with persons with limited English proficiency.
6.4 Courts should require the use of the most appropriate manner for providing language access for the services and programs covered by this Standard and should promote the use of translated signs, brochures, documents, audio and video recordings, bilingual staff, and interpreters.
STANDARD 7 TRANSLATION
7. Courts should establish a process for providing access to translated written information to persons with limited English proficiency to ensure meaningful access to all court services.
7.1 Courts should establish a system for prioritizing and translating documents that determines which documents should be translated, selects the languages for translation, includes alternative measures for illiterate and low literacy individuals, and provides a mechanism for regular review of translation priorities.
7.2 To ensure quality in translated documents, courts should establish a translation protocol that includes: review of the document prior to translation for uniformity and plain English usage; selection of translation technology, document formats, and glossaries; and, utilization of both a primary translator and a reviewing translator.
STANDARD 8 QUALIFICATIONS OF LANGUAGE ACCESS PROVIDERS
8. The court system and individual courts should ensure that interpreters, bilingual staff, and translators used in legal proceedings and in courthouse, court‐mandated and court‐ offered services, are qualified to provide services.
8.1 Courts should ensure that all interpreters providing services to persons with limited English proficiency are competent. Competency includes language fluency, interpreting skills, familiarity with technical terms and courtroom culture and knowledge of codes of professional conduct for court interpreters.
8.2 Courts should ensure that bilingual staff used to provide information directly to persons with limited English proficiency are competent in the language(s) in which they communicate.
8.3 Courts should ensure that translators are competent in the languages which they translate.
8.4 Courts should establish or participate in a comprehensive system for credentialing interpreters, bilingual staff, and translators that includes pre‐screening,ethics training, an orientation program, continuing education, and a system to voir dire language services providers’ qualifications in all settings for which they are used.
STANDARD 9 TRAINING
9. The court system and individual courts should provide all judges, court personnel, and court‐appointed professionals with training on the following: legal requirements for language access; court policies and rules; language services provider qualifications; ethics; effective techniques for working with language services providers; appropriate use of translated materials; and cultural competency.
STANDARD 10 STATE‐WIDE COORDINATION
10. Each court system should establish a Language Access Services Office to coordinate and facilitate the provision of language access services.
10.1 The office should provide, facilitate, and coordinate statewide communication regarding the need for and availability of language access services.
10.2 The office should coordinate and facilitate the development of necessary rules and procedures to implement language access services.
10.3 The office should monitor compliance with rules, policies and procedures for providing language access services.
10.4 The office should ensure the statewide development of resources to provide language access.
10.5 The office should coordinate the credentialing, recruitment, and monitoring of language services providers to ensure that interpreters, bilingual staff, and translators possess adequate skills for the setting in which they will be providing services.
10.6 The office should coordinate and facilitate the education and training of providers, judicial officers, court personnel, and the general public on the components of Standard 9.