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Interpreters In Federal and Ohio Courts - Measures To Ensure Equal Access to Foreign Speaking Defendant's and Parties

The Supreme Court of Ohio, Language Services Program has initiated a Complaint Process for individuals who want to report the failure of a local court to appoint an interpreter when Sup. R. 88 requires.

Ohio courts accommodate approximately eighty languages and handle more than 25,000 cases requiring interpreters every year.

Rules of Superintendence for the Courts R. 88 entitled "Appointment of a Foreign Language Interpreter or Sign Language Interpreter" provides when a foreign language interpreter is required:

"A court shall appoint a foreign language interpreter in a case or court function in either of the following situations:

(1) A party or witness who is limited English proficient or non-English speaking requests a foreign language interpreter and the court determines the services of the interpreter are necessary for the meaningful participation of the party or witness;

(2) Absent a request from a party or witness for a foreign language interpreter, the court concludes the party or witness is limited English proficient or non-English speaking and determines the services of the interpreter are necessary for the meaningful participation of the party or witness.

There are three (3) ways in which an individual or their attorney may initiate a complaint:

(1) Calling the Supreme Court of Ohio Language Services Program

at 1-(888) 317-3177;

(2) Sending a Letter to the Language Services Program, 65 South Front

Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215-3431; or

(3) Emailing the Complaint to the Language Services Program through

www.sc.ohio.gov.

The Language Services Program will respond to the complainant within ten (10) business days and will also notify the local court against whom the complaint is made.

The local court must respond and offer a proposed resolution to the Language Services Program within ten (10) days.

The Ohio Supreme Court's initiation of the complaint process is in connection with In Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor's October 2013 remarks at the annual address to all Ohio Judges in which she outlined the Supreme Court's courtroom interpretation expansion initiative which included the following:

· A statewide language line enabling courts to connect with live interpreters;

· Bench reference cards provided to all Ohio judges for guidance in handling

cases that require an interpreters;

· A training explaining Ohio's interpretation rule for all judges and court

personnel; and

· A website, brochures, posters and other material informing attorneys and

citizens about courtroom language proficiency rights and responsibilities.

Ohio courts accommodate approximately eighty languages and handle more than 25,000 cases requiring interpreters every year.

Similarly, the U.S. Justice Department, Civil Rights Division recently released the Language Access Planning and Technical Assistance Tool for courts to ensure limited English proficient individuals equal access to justice by allowing courts to self-assess their language services and the effectiveness of those services.

The Language Access Tool, was created by the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section of the Civil Rights Division, and is enforced under the 1964 Civil Rights Act which makes it illegal for federally assisted programs and activities to discriminate on the basis of national origin, which includes the failure to provide meaningful language access.

If you or someone who cares about you has questions in connection with access to interpreters in the courtroom, contact Attorney Michael C. Hennenberg to schedule a consultation.

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