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2021 California Rules of Court

Rule 1.300. Access to programs, services, and professionals

(a) Definitions

As used in this chapter, unless the context or subject matter otherwise requires, the following definitions apply:

(1)  "Court-provided programs, services, and professionals" are services offered and provided by court employees or by contractors or vendors under agreement with the court.

(2)  "Court litigant" is a person who is a party in a court case or other legal proceeding.

(3)  "Language services" are services designed to provide access to the legal system to limited English proficient court litigants and may include in-person interpretation, telephonic interpreter services, video remote interpreting services, and services provided by assigned bilingual employees and bilingual volunteers.

(4)  "Limited English proficient" describes a person who speaks English "less than very well" and who, as a result, cannot understand or participate in a court proceeding.

(5)  "Private programs, services, and professionals" are services provided by outside agencies, organizations, and persons that court litigants may be required to access by court order.

(b) Provision of language services in court-ordered and court-provided programs, services, and professionals

As soon as feasible, each court must adopt procedures to enable limited English proficient court litigants to access court-ordered and court-provided programs, services, and professionals to the same extent as persons who are proficient in English.

(c) Provision of language services in private programs and services, and by private professionals

To the extent feasible, a court should avoid ordering a limited English proficient court litigant to a private program, service, or professional that is not language accessible.

(d) Delay in access to services

If a limited English proficient court litigant is unable to access a private program, service, or professional within the time period ordered by the court due to limitations in language service availability, the court litigant may submit a statement to the court indicating the reason for the delay, and the court may, for good cause, enter an alternative order or extend the time for completion. Court litigants may use Service Not Available in My Language: Request to Change Court Order (form LA-400) for this purpose. The court may respond to the request using Service Not Available in My Language: Order (form LA-450).

(e) Use of technology

Courts should seek out opportunities to collaborate with each other and with community partners in the provision of language services, and should employ technology to promote the sharing of bilingual staff and certified and registered court interpreters among courts, as appropriate.

Rule 1.300 adopted effective September 1, 2019.

Advisory Committee Comment

Subdivision (b). The goal of this rule is to connect limited English proficient court litigants ordered by courts to access programs or professionals with services in the languages spoken by the litigants. Recognizing that not all program providers will be willing or able to meet the language needs, the rule is intended to help courts become aware of those language services available in the community so that limited English proficient court litigants are not placed in a position where they are unable to comply with court orders because the required services are not available in a language they understand.

To facilitate equal access to justice, when courts order limited English proficient litigants to access court-provided programs, services, and professionals, to the greatest extent possible, courts should ensure that the services are language accessible.

To the extent feasible and as permitted by law, any memorandum of understanding or other written agreement for agency-referred programs, services, and professionals that trial courts enter into or amend after the implementation date of this rule should include the goals of providing language services in the languages spoken by limited English proficient court users and of notifying the court if the language needs of a limited English proficient court litigant referred to the program, service, or professional cannot be accommodated.

Subdivision (c). Courts are encouraged to offer neutral, nonendorsing information about private programs, services, and professionals providing multilingual services or language assistance to enable limited English proficient court litigants to access their programs. Private programs, services, and professionals that would like to be included on a court's informational list may confirm in writing to the court annually that they offer language services, indicating the languages covered by the program, service, or professional. Courts may require providers to use Notice of Available Language Assistance-Service Provider (form LA-350) for this purpose.

Subdivision (d). When a defendant is required to participate in a batterer intervention program under section 1203.097(a)(6) of the California Penal Code, the court may order "another appropriate counseling program" if a batterer's program is unavailable in the language spoken by the court litigant. In addition, a judge may, for good cause, excuse the requirement to complete the 52-week program within 18 months. The application of a similar standard to all orders to participate in noncourtroom services, whereby the unavailability of language assistance would constitute good cause to make an alternative order or to excuse delay in completion, would provide the court with flexibility to address situations in which a program or service is unavailable in the language spoken by a limited English proficient court user.

Two optional forms, Service Not Available in My Language: Request to Change Court Order (form LA-400) and Service Not Available in My Language: Order (form LA-450), were developed to facilitate communication between the court and a limited English proficient court litigant who is unable to comply with a court order because of a lack of language assistance.

Form LA-400 allows the court litigant to notify the court of the unavailability of language assistance in a court-ordered program and to request a modified order or an extension of the time for completion of the program. Form LA-450 allows the court to issue a modified order or to extend the time for completion of a court-ordered program or service. A request may be denied if the court receives information that a program is available in the language of the court litigant or that language assistance is available to help the court litigant access the program, and that the program or service may be accessed within the time mandated by the court for completion. If a request is denied on this basis, the court should provide contact information that will allow the court litigant to access the program. In addition, a request may be denied if the court finds there is good cause to believe that the request was brought for an improper purpose or that the court litigant knowingly provided false information on form LA-400.

Subdivision (e). It is the policy of the California courts to encourage the efficient and effective use of human and technological resources in the provision of language services while ensuring meaningful access for limited English proficient court users. For noncourtroom interpretation events, courts may consult the report, Technological Options for Providing and Sharing Court Language Access Services Outside the Courtroom (January 2018) for opportunities to collaborate with other courts and service providers to enhance language access for LEP court users.

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