Department of Justice SealDepartment of Justice
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888

Justice Department Reaches Agreement with Maine Courts to Reduce Language Barriers

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today announced it has reached an agreement with administrative officials of the Maine judiciary to help ensure that limited English proficient (LEP) individuals seeking services throughout the State’s court system will have access to timely and competent language assistance.

The agreement resolves a Justice Department investigation of a complaint alleging that the Maine judicial branch, which receives federal funding, was not in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the nondiscrimination provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. These two acts together prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex or religion by recipients of federal assistance.

"I commend state court officials in Maine for their commitment to serving individuals with limited English proficiency," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Their efforts will help facilitate equal access to the justice system."

A key aspect of Maine’s model language assistance plan is the administrative order issued in October 2006, stating that all LEP individuals shall have access to language assistance during all civil as well as criminal proceedings. With the signing of this agreement, the Maine Judicial Branch now has one of the most comprehensive systems in the country for provision of services to LEP individuals in court.

Maine court authorities consulted with community experts and worked with neighboring States to shape a language assistance plan that will be both responsive to the diverse linguistic communities served by Main courts, but also serve as a viable model for neighboring communities and jurisdictions. The Maine Judicial Branch designed a training curriculum for court personnel and utilized this curriculum during training sessions for clerks and judges on the effective use of interpreters and other language assistance measures. The strong support and active participation of the state’s Chief Justice and the Administrative Office of the Courts have been key to the progress made.

Under the terms of the agreement signed today, the Justice Department will monitor Maine’s compliance for a period of two years.