August 16, 2015
California’s Judicial Council approved a plan to extend free interpretation services to all cases by 2017.
Legal advocates say that many litigants go to court without a qualified legal interpreter and must rely on informal means for interpretation, through a friend, family member, or the opposing party. The U.S. Department of Justice has been scrutinizing the California court system’s language access capacity. California is obligated only to provide interpreters in criminal cases.
“You can’t have a court hearing without having your client understand it correctly,” said Protima Pandey, a staff attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid.
Pandey said she makes interpretation available for her clients, but many litigants in family court don’t have access to such services.
There is uncertainty about the true cost of implementation, which should be significantly more than the current spending on interpretation of $92 million.
The state passed a law allowing for free interpretation in civil cases; courts were told to use the limited funding available to first provide services for cases on domestic violence, harassment, and elder abuse.
Organizations mentioned/involved: Bay Area Legal Aid (BayLegal)