More than 200 languages and dialects are spoken in California. Without proper language assistance, Limited English Proficient (LEP) court users may be excluded from meaningful participation in the judicial court process. In January 2015, the Judicial Council adopted this statewide Language Access Plan (LAP) Report to provide recommendations, guidance, and a consistent statewide approach to ensure language access throughout the courts. The Language Access Implementation Task Force, chaired by California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, advises the Judicial Council on implementation of the LAP recommendations.
February 2, 2015: Executive Summary for the Language Access Plan (coming soon in Spanish and other languages).
January 22, 2015: At its public meeting on January 22, the Judicial Council adopted a language access plan for the California courts (Press Release). The Strategic Plan for Language Access in the California Courts is the result of an 18-month effort by the Joint Working Group that included public hearings and a 60-day formal public comment period on a draft of the plan.
Language access allows limited English proficient (LEP) individuals access to a wide range of services. As defined by the U.S. Department of Justice, LEP individuals are persons who do not speak English as their primary language and who may have a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English.
In California, the most diverse state in the country:
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Limited English proficient (LEP) court users are unable to file the proper paperwork correctly and are required to return to court.
Signage in English may appear simple enough to understand, but to a LEP court user, key inforrmation is often misunderstood.
Court users come to courthouses because they have a problem that they cannot resolve on their own. The state constitution requires that courts provide interpreting services for court users involved in criminal and certain juvenile cases. Efforts to expand interpreting services in civil cases are underway.
Without proper language assistance, limited English proficient (LEP) court users may be excluded from meaningful participation in the judicial process. Many LEP litigants appear without an attorney, and friends and family members who act as interpreters often do not understand legal terminology or court procedures.
Further, LEP court users' language needs are not limited to the courtroom; the need for language assistance extends to all points of contact for the public. The Courts are searching for new solutions for these issues including more efficient use of existing resources to help improve and expand language access around the state.
More Information & Resources:
Language Access Fact Sheet
NCSC Call to Action – Access to Justice for Limited English Proficient Litigants (2013)
ABA Standards for Language Access in Courts (2012)
Language Barriers to Justice in California (2005)
Federal Interagency Working Group on Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Website