LOS ANGELES – Have problems to speak and understand English in court? Do not worry, under a new agreement between the U.S. Justice Department and Los Angeles County Superior Court, limited English proficient ((LEP) court users will have access to timely and accurate language assistance services.
The U.S. Justice Department Tuesday announced an agreement with the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles (LASC).
The agreement resolves a Justice Department investigation of a complaint filed by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles that alleged the LASC failed to provide LEP individuals with meaningful access to its court services, including civil proceedings and court operations.
The complaint alleged a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its implementing regulations, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of national origin.
“The Los Angeles County Superior Court has accepted the challenge of serving the needs of limited English proficient individuals in one of the most populous and linguistically diverse areas of the country,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker.
“Protecting the civil rights of all people within the Central District of California is one of my top priorities as United States Attorney, and today’s agreement serves that goal by giving greater access to the judicial system to individuals so that they may protect their own rights.”
During the investigation, the LASC steadily expanded its provision of interpreter services, which now includes all criminal and the vast majority of civil proceedings, as well as oral and written language assistance in court services.
The LASC has agreed to expand free interpreter services to unlimited civil matters – the last remaining case type in which language services are currently not guaranteed – by December 1, 2017.
Among other commitments, the court will translate additional documents, provide broader notice about the availability of free interpreter services for court proceedings and make it easier to request an interpreter.
The LASC will also continue to seek input from community partners serving LEP populations. Under the terms of the agreement, LASC will provide periodic updates to the Justice Department until the end of 2017.
“We applaud the Los Angeles County Superior Court for committing to protect the rights of all people, whatever their national origin or level of English proficiency, to participate meaningfully, fully and fairly in state court proceedings,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“Providing effective language services is essential to vindicating the civil rights of court users and safeguarding the integrity of our justice system.”
While the department’s investigation focused on the LASC, the structure of the California judicial system required the department to review policies circulated and enforced at the state level through the California Judicial Council and its staff.