August 20, 2014

Interpreter Services to Be Free in Colorado Courts after DOJ Agreement

Today, the Justice Department announced that it has reached an agreement with Colorado State Judicial officials to ensure that limited English proficient (LEP) individuals will have free access to timely and competent language assistance when seeking services in state courts.

Last year, the Justice Department issued a letter to chief justices and state court administrators around the nation to help clarify the obligation “to provide oral interpretation, written translation and other language services to to people who are LEP.” Since then, the Department had been investigating a complaint alleging that Colorado State Judicial, which receives federal funding, was not in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the nondiscrimination provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. These two acts prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or religion by recipients of federal assistance.

Today’s agreement resolves that investigation and, accordingly, Chief Justice Bender has issued a comprehensive Directive that provides for free and competent interpreter services in all criminal and civil proceedings, as well as court operations. Drafting the Directive was a collaborative effort between state court officials, judges, administrators, and community experts.

Additionally, the Colorado Judicial Department will develop state and local language access plans in conjunction with the DOJ, addressing both oral interpretation and the translation of vital written documents. The existing Court Interpreter Oversight Committee will be expanded to include a Colorado Legal Services attorney, a prosecutor, a public defender, an advocate representing the interests of the language minority populations in Colorado, and other members who have relevant experience in court language access issues. This committee will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the directive, the state and district plans, and implementation efforts.

The Chief Justice Directive implementing the changes to interpreter services can be read here. Additionally, two other CJDs were amended to account for the changes, and they can be read here and here.

Click here to read the full DOJ press release.

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