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Department of Justice Applauds Hawaii State Judiciary for Continued Commitment in Expanding Language Assistance Services

Posted on Mar 24, 2015 in Press Releases

The Hawaii State Judiciary has been collaborating with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in order to better meet the growing needs of its court users who require language assistance services in court proceedings and operations.

The Department of Justice said in its news release today: “I commend the Hawaii Judiciary for its proactive efforts to provide all communities with equal access to justice regardless of the language they speak,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “The results we are seeing in Hawaii are a testament to what collaboration and cooperation can achieve. Hawaii knows its work is not done, and we welcome the opportunity to continue to provide assistance whenever needed.”

During this technical assistance agreement period with the Department of Justice, the Judiciary updated and expanded its Language Assistance Policy. In fiscal year 2013, the Judiciary provided interpreter services in more than 8,000 proceedings, and has been providing training to Judiciary staff to better assist these customers. The Judiciary’s language assistance services include over-the–counter and over-the-telephone encounters for all Judiciary-related business, including those who want to utilize services at the Self Help Centers.

“We are committed to providing the best services we can for court users who do not speak English as their first language,” said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald. “The Hawai`i State Judiciary provides services to persons with limited English proficiency in all case types at no charge. I am proud of the progress we have made.”

“I extend a special thanks to many in our Judiciary ohana for their leadership efforts to meet our growing needs in this area, including Justice Sabrina McKenna, Judge Gerald Kibe, the Office of Equality and Access to the Courts (OEAC), the Committee on Equality and Access to the Courts (CEAC), the Committee on Court Interpreters and Language Access (CILA), and the Joint Title VI Subcommittee,” added CJ Recktenwald.

In addition to providing training for Judiciary staff, the Judiciary refined its court interpreter assignment policy and redoubled its efforts to educate local court coordinators. Using a DOJ grant, OEAC provided Interpreter Skills Building workshops focused on developing skills and building competency of state court interpreters.

The Judiciary also implemented an awareness campaign to increase the public’s knowledge about how to access language services. There is a new tab on the Judiciary’s webpage dedicated to “Language Access,” which provides information such as tips on going to court, how to request a court interpreter, Self Help Centers, and Language ID Cards. A limited English proficient (LEP) person can print out a Language ID card and show them to Judiciary staff when he or she comes to court to help identify their language needs.

Moreover, the information on the “Language Access” site is translated into fourteen of the most frequently used languages to better assist our court users. The same information is also available in hard copy form at all our Self Help Centers, Access to Justice Rooms, and with legal service providers who often assist LEP court users.

Lastly, the Judiciary has made it easier for court users to raise concerns about their experiences with our language services. The feedback from our users is the best tool to help us find out where we can continue to improve our services and build for our future.

“We are thankful for the leadership, support and guidance from the Department of Justice,” said Debi Tulang-De Silva, OEAC Program Director. “We look forward to continuing to work with the DOJ as we move forward to ensure meaningful access to court operations.”

 

For more information, contact the Communications and Community Relations Office at 808-539-4909 or via email at pao@courts.hawaii.gov.

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