Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Department of Justice Seeks to Protect People Who Speak Korean, Chinese and/or Spanish

dept of justice.jpgA few months ago the Department of Justice's civil rights division advised the nation's courts to have interpreters available for free at all criminal and civil proceedings and beyond the courtroom, including detention facilities, anger management classes and parol offices. The letter also cited several specific failures. One important instruction from the DOJ was that any court that receives federal funding is subject to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which requires access for all individuals regardless of their national origin. This requirement also includes offering services to limited proficiency speakers.

Too often people who speak Spanish, Korean and/or Chinese face clerks who are unaware of available services or indifferent to the needs of those who speak limited English. Many times outdated versions of translated forms are used. In some cases, Spanish, Korean and/or Chinese people are told they must pay for interpreters. In rare cases, people who can't speak English are treated rudely by court personnel. The Maryland Access to Justice Commission, a state body made up of judges and other officials formed in 2008, is investigating language barriers in Maryland's courts and issuing recommendations on how to improve communication. Maryland courts tend to do a good job providing Spanish interpreters at formal hearings, however, there are many procedures and nuances in our courts where no interpreter is available especially for Korean and Chinese people. Basically, there is no type of mechanism to deal with people who don't speak English who come to the courthouse.

This deficiency results from a lack of resources. The state judiciary branch has gone three years without new positions, raises or cost-of-living adjustments to salaries. Under the current budget restraints, hiring and training additional bilingual or Spanish, Korean and Chinese staff is difficult. However, misuse of existing resources, such as CTS Language Link, a telephone translation service also exists and must be addressed. Regardless of the shortcoming of the judiciary branch, non English speaking residents of this county enjoy equal protection of the U.S. Constitution and are entitled to every procedural safeguard the court offers. More importantly, these residents must be thoroughly informed of their rights at almost every step of the judicial process. If you have limited English skills and were charged with a crime or injured in an accident contact one of our multilingual Maryland and Virginia law firm. Our staff speaks Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Korean. Our Maryland lawyers and Virginia attorneys will protect your rights.

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