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 has worked to ensure that courts, lawyers, litigants, and members of the public understand the importance of adequate language access in the courts.
NCAJ's flagship Justice Index has identified 35 best practice policies that states should adopt to ensure language access in the justice system. Our data shows how every US state is doing against those benchmarks-- and how their overall policy frameworks measure up against one another. Our findings have been widely used as a key reference point-- by federal officials, journalists and others.
In Language Access in the Federal Courts, Laura 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).