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Department of Justice
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Justice Department and Eau Claire County, Wisconsin, Circuit Court Partner to Ensure Equal Access for Limited English Proficient Court Users in Court Operated Class

The Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement with Eau Claire County Circuit Court to resolve a complaint it received from the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association alleging that Eau Claire County Circuit Court failed to provide appropriate language assistance services to limited English proficient (LEP) court users. Specifically, the complaint alleged that the court required individuals seeking a divorce to attend the “Families in Transition” class, but the class was only available in English.

The Department began working with Eau Claire County Circuit Court in September 2017, when the complainant filed its complaint alleging that the barriers to divorce proceedings based on language proficiency violated the prohibition against national origin discrimination in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI).  Title VI requires recipients of federal financial assistance, such as courts, to provide meaningful language services to LEP individuals in all court proceedings and operations. 

The resolution agreement between the Department and Eau Claire County Circuit Court outlines actions that the court has begun to take to respond to concerns raised during the federal review and the efforts the court will continue to take to ensure the ongoing provision of comprehensive language assistance for the “Families in Transition” class.  The actions include, among other things, a translated notice of options available to all LEP court users required to attend the “Families in Transition” class, community engagement, and training for court staff who interact with LEP court users.    

“We commend the Eau Claire County Circuit Court for its commitment to guaranteeing meaningful access to the courts for all, regardless of national origin,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore.  “This collaboration between the Justice Department and Eau Claire County Circuit Court will strengthen the Court’s ability to provide equal access to the judicial process.”

The complaint was resolved as part of the Civil Rights Division, Federal Coordination and Compliance Section’s (FCS) efforts to ensure that state courts comply with Title VI’s language access requirements.  No LEP individual should be denied justice because a court fails to provide language services.  The FCS courts team provides policy guidance and technical assistance to state court systems and undertakes enforcement actions across the country.

Updated June 13, 2018