What is Language Access?

Get Involved!

Invitation for Public Comment

Submit a comment on the Proposed Strategic Plan for Language Access in the California Courts. Deadline for comments is September 29, 2014.

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:

  • Over 200 languages are spoken.
  • 40% of households speak a language other than English.
  • Nearly 7 million speak English "less than very well."
  • 20% of Californians cannot access the court system without language help.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

How Language Access Impacts Court Users

Man filling out paperwork
Limited English proficient (LEP) court users are unable to file the proper paperwork correctly and are required to return to court.

Image of sign for night court schedule
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. But in many types of civil cases, interpreting is not required.

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.

Get Involved

Public Participation
There are three ways that you can actively be involved in helping to shape California's Language Access Plan (LAP):

  • Provide written comments, suggestions or ideas
  • Keep informed about the progress of the plan and share information with your communities

Opportunities for Public Comment
The Joint Working Group for California's Language Access Plan would like your input to help prepare draft recommendations for policy and procedural changes that may help to improve language access for all of California's limited English proficient court users.

Revisit the Joint Working Group page for news updates.

More Information & Resources:
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

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