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The Justice Department announced today that it has reached an agreement with the New Jersey Judiciary to provide comprehensive language assistance services to limited English proficient (LEP) individuals. In a letter agreement reached on April 7, 2014, the department informed the New Jersey Judiciary that it was closing its review, which was opened in response to complaints by court users that courthouses in two counties in New Jersey were not fully accessible to LEP individuals. The department opened its inquiry under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits national origin discrimination by recipients of federal assistance and requires those recipients to provide meaningful access to LEP individuals.
The resolution letter between the department and the New Jersey Judiciary outlines actions and initiatives that the New Jersey Judiciary has implemented to respond to concerns raised during the federal review and the efforts they will undertake to ensure the ongoing provision of comprehensive language assistance throughout the court system. The initiatives include, among other things, interpreter services for litigants, multi-lingual signage in courthouses, services to assist LEP patrons with transacting business such as bilingual self-help kiosks and tutorial videos, the translation of over 340 statewide pro se forms and brochures, translated notices, sight translation in emergent and time-sensitive matters and the advertisement of these services in publications widely read by the local Latino community. The New Jersey Judiciary is also conducting statewide reviews of courthouse access and of the interpreter services available in its holding cells to ensure that all LEP individuals have meaningful access to the courts.
“The New Jersey Judiciary has been a leader in the field of interpreter policies for many years, and we commend Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, Acting Administrative Director Judge Glen Grant, the New Jersey Judiciary staff and stakeholders who have all worked to ensure that the state is also a leader in access in the courthouse more generally,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. “We particularly commend the efforts of the state and local court leaders to communicate with LEP stakeholders and their representatives to address these challenges.”
The complaint was resolved as part of an initiative by the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS) of the Civil Rights Division to ensure that state courts comply with the language access requirements of Title VI. FCS provides policy guidance and technical assistance to state court systems through tools such as the recently released Courts Language Access Planning and Assistance Tool, and undertakes enforcement actions across the country.
The New Jersey matter was handled by attorney Ndidi Moses with the assistance of Special Legal Counsel Christine Stoneman.
For more information about Title VI and the Safe Streets Act, or to obtain copies of documents related to this matter, please visit the LEP website . A Spanish translation of this release will be available soon at the Justice en Español website .