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Access Brief: Language Access & Self-Represented Litigants

Date: 
03/05/2014
Author: 
National Center for State Courts (NCSC)
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Overview

Individuals with Limited English Proficiency (“LEP”) experience heightened difficulty when navigating the judicial system in propria persona. The brief, produced by the Center on Court Access to Justice for All of the NCSC, adopts an expansive definition of LEP by embracing all circumstances that complicate a litigant’s ability to protect their legal rights through effective communication. For example, in conjunction with non-native English speakers, LEP includes auditory and cognitive impaired individuals.

Disavowing ad hoc consideration, “nine action steps” are proffered to produce a systemic approach for assisting LEP pro se litigants. The framework aims to assist States determine how best to improve their existing institutional structure. The nine steps are:

  1. Identifying the need for language assistance
  2. Establishing and maintaining oversight
  3. Implementing monitoring procedures
  4. Training and educating court staff and stakeholders
  5. Training and certifying interpreters
  6. Enhancing collaboration and information sharing
  7. Utilizing remote interpreting technology
  8. Ensuring compliance with legal requirements
  9. Exploring strategies to obtain funding

The brief emphasizes the necessity of the judiciary to adopt a proactive, in contradistinction to passive, approach for affording meaningful access to LEP pro se litigants. 

Purpose

The purpose of the Brief is to address the needs of self-represented litigants in court who are categorized as Limited English Proficient. 

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