Language Access

Translate This Page

Translation Disclaimer

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

Language Access Educational Webinars

To support public outreach efforts, the Language Access Subcommittee of the Judicial Council’s Advisory Committee on Providing Access and Fairness hosted a series of language access educational webinar sessions, via Zoom.  The sessions discussed challenges and opportunities to maintain access to justice for California's approximately 7 million limited English proficient (LEP) court users, especially in the COVID-19 pandemic era. You may view the webinars by visiting: Language Access Toolkit – Public Outreach

Of Current Interest

May 21, 2021: The Judicial Council approved the Recommended Guidelines and Minimum Specifications for Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) for Spoken Language-Interpreted Events (VRI Guidelines), which have been updated to support VRI in both physical and virtual courtrooms and to provide guidance to courts and the public to ensure that remote interpreting allows limited English proficient court users to fully and meaningfully participate in court proceedings.

May 2021: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Safety Handouts are available on the Language Access Toolkit: Public Outreach page

February 2021: Public Outreach Campaign: Language Access Multilingual Educational Materials Overview Document

February 2021: Language Access Services – Spring 2021 Updates

May 2020: Court Language Access Survey Report

May 15, 2020: The Judicial Council approved the 2020 Language Need and Interpreter Use Study, which details interpreter use in the courts and projects future language need.

April 20, 2020: The council allocated language access grants for trial court signage and technology to improve services and better assist court users with limited English skills.

March 23, 2020: To meet court's quick translation needs, Avantpage is offering Rapid Fire service for short in-language emergency communication with a 6 or 24 hour turnaround (Spanish or Chinese).

March 23, 2020: Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Resources – Translated signs and advisories for courts about reduced services and health and safety guidelines are available on Equal Access.

September 4, 2019: Learn more about Rule 1.300 (Language Access in Court-Ordered Services) and Related Forms including FAQs.

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.