Supreme Court Exceeding Limited English Proficient Obligations

A statement issued by the Ohio Supreme Court regarding legal interpreters.

“Guidelines issued this week [August 23, 2010] by the U.S. Department of Justice show that efforts by the Supreme Court of Ohio are exceeding national standards in breaking down language barriers in the courtroom.

Ten years ago, President Clinton signed an Executive Order that ensures recipients of federal funds provide meaningful access to limited English proficient persons. The Justice Department letter to chief justices and administrators of state courts clarifies the obligation of courts to provide oral interpretation, written translation and other language services to LEP persons.

The Supreme Court’s Interpreter Services Program was created in 2003 and designed to provide assistance to judges and courts statewide on the issue of foreign language interpretation and to serve as a resource center for the judicial branch. The resources the program has developed include:

  • A report on the use of interpreters in Ohio courts
  • Bench cards for judges on working with foreign language interpreters and working with interpreters for deaf or hard of hearing persons in the courtroom
  • A handbook for judges on interpreters in the judicial system
  • A DVD on the role of interpreters in the legal system
  • A University of Dayton Law Review Article titled “Here Are Your Right Hands: Exploring Interpreter Qualifications”
  • A forms translation project in which 27 court forms were translated in Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, Somali and Spanish
  • Offering more than 450 hours of court interpreter training throughout the state representing 60 languages.

As one of the program’s latest projects, applicants are being tested to become certified under the Supreme Court’s new court interpreter certification program.

Program Manager Bruno Romero said the idea behind the creation of the program was to ensure that the fair administration of justice would not depend on the language Ohioans speak. “The initiatives we undertake are all designed to increase the likelihood that non-English speaking litigants knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily understand their rights and comprehend legal proceedings,” he said. “We continue to work hard on any aspect that furthers that goal.”

The Supreme Court also formed the Advisory Committee on Interpreter Services in 2005 to provide advice on the promotion of statewide rules and uniform standards for establishing and operating interpreter programs in Ohio courts and the development and delivery of interpreter services to Ohio courts including training programs for judges and court personnel.”

This excerpt was taken from the Supreme Court of Ohio & The Ohio Judicial System website. Click Here for additional information.

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