Language Access

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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.

Effective March 2019, the Language Access Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee on Providing Access and Fairness will work to ensure the continuation of efforts to achieve and maintain access to justice for California’s LEP court users

Of Current Interest

March 15, 2019: The Judicial Council approved updated Language Access Plan guidelines for video remote interpreting (VRI) that include recommended minimum technology guidelines to facilitate its use. The council also voted to create a new VRI program for the judicial branch to expand LEP court user access to qualified interpreters. GuidelinesReport. Slideshow. News Release.

February 19, 2019: LAP Implementation Progress Report

February 19, 2019: At its January 22, 2019 business meeting, the Language Access Plan Implementation Task Force approved: Policies and Protocols for the Use of Bilingual Volunteers

February 4, 2019: Commentary from Hon. Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar: “How to ensure equal access to the law when we speak 200 different languages”

January 2019: Language Access Implementation Update

December 7, 2018: Language Access Reporting Form: Summary Report (December 2018)

thumbnail of the Language Access PlanJune 11, 2015:
Strategic Plan for Language Access in the California Courts

A version of the Language Access Plan that includes graphics is now available.

 

April 28, 2015: Executive Summary for the Language Access Plan is now available in the following languages.

Spanish (Español)
Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt)
Korean (한국어)
Chinese (中文)
Farsi (فارسی)
Russian (Русский)
Tagalog (Tagalog)
Arabic (العربية)
Punjabi (ਪੰਜਾਬੀ)
Khmer (Khmer)

Language Access in California

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.
  • 44% of households speak a language other than English.
  • Nearly 7 million speak English "less than very well."
  • 19% of Californians cannot access the court system without language help.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau (2015)

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 information 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

Language Access Program

The Language Access Program is reachable via email at LAP@jud.ca.gov. For more information about the Language Access Subcommittee, visit the Advisory Committee on Providing Access and Fairness page.