Wednesday, September 21, 2016
DOJ, Superior Court Reach Agreement on Services for Speakers of Limited English
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The federal Department of Justice and the Los Angeles Superior Court have reached an agreement resolving a civil rights complaint about the way the court treats persons who have limited English language skills, the DOJ said yesterday.
The complaint by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles last year accused the court of failing to provide such persons with meaningful access to its court services, including civil proceedings and court operations. LAFLA said the court was violating 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,” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker of the Central District of California said. “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.”
The DOJ credited the court with having taken steps to improve the situation while the investigation was ongoing, including providing interpreters in all criminal and most civil matters, as well as oral and written assistance in foreign languages for persons seeking access to court services. Signs in multiple languages, noting the availability of interpreters, are now posted outside all unlawful detainer and small claims courtrooms, and defendants in those cases are advised of their right to an interpreter on the forms they receive at the time of service, the agreement noted.
The signed agreement further noted that the court “has “translated some vital court signage and critical court documents into the five languages in which it receives the most requests for interpreters: Spanish, Korean, Armenian (Eastern), Chinese, and Vietnamese,” which are spoken by about 99 percent of all “limited English proficient court users.”
As part of the agreement, the court will expand free interpreter services to all civil matters by Dec. 1 of next year. The parties also noted that the court has expanded training of judges and staff members with regard to “language-access related matters.”
The court also agreed to 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 court will also provide periodic updates to the Justice Department until the end of next year.
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company