Language Access in the Courts


Courts Improving Service for Limited-English Speakers

Did you know that Spanish is the most requested language by limited-English-proficiency court users?
Aug 28, 2017

Two reports prepared by the Judicial Council and the National Center for State Courts tout the significant expansion of language access services by trial courts in the state, including the expansion of court interpreters in priority civil cases and in non-courtroom proceedings. The reports also highlight other achievements, such as the addition of multilingual signage throughout courthouses and multilingual information on courts’ websites.

While trial courts embrace the council’s Language Access Plan (LAP), limited resources and funding prevent some courts from implementing all goals listed in the plan.

I’m enormously proud of the progress that our courts have made across the state in ensuring access to justice for all, regardless of ability to speak English –– and I’m grateful for all the support from trial court judges, lawyers, legislators, interpreters, and the public. But we have a lot more work to do. With more resources we can continue expansion of language assistance in all proceedings and make sure our courts are ready to help everyone, regardless of what language they speak.

—Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Chair of Language Access Plan Implementation Task Force

Below are some of the findings from each report:

Court Language Access Reporting Form Summary Report (Prepared by the Judicial Council):

  • More than 80% of courts now provide court interpreters for critical civil cases, which include domestic violence, unlawful detainer, and termination of parental rights. In September 2015, only nine courts provided interpreters in these civil case types
  • 70% of courts said they’re able to provide interpreters in non-courtroom proceedings, such as interactions at court clerk’s offices and self-help centers
  • 79% of courts have multilingual staff to help limited-English-speaking court users in non-courtroom settings

2017 Language Access Survey Report for LAP Implementation Phase II (Prepared by the National Center for State Courts):

  • Spanish remains the most requested language by court users statewide, followed by Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Arabic, and Punjabi
  • 60% of courts provide multilingual information on their websites
  • 80% of courts said they use the Judicial Council’s Language Access Toolkit, which includes multilingual holiday closure signs, interpreter request forms, and other language access resources