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Note: This press release has been translated in various languages. See attachments below.
The Justice Department today announced it will close a civil rights review based on actions the South Dakota Unified Judicial System (UJS) has taken to improve access to court programs and activities for people with limited English proficiency (LEP).
In October 2021, the Justice Department resolved a review of UJS opened pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin by recipients of federal financial assistance. UJS has taken a number of actions to improve access to state courts for LEP individuals in South Dakota. UJS has also formalized a court language access program, and recently, UJS issued a statewide language access plan that requires all courts to provide interpreter and translator services at no cost to LEP court users. Additionally, UJS has provided judges and court staff language access training that addresses Title VI and state law requirements. The department is closing this review due to these and other efforts by UJS.
“Language should never stand as a barrier for people seeking access to justice and access to courts in our country,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We recognize the South Dakota Unified Judicial System’s improvements which have helped substantially improve access to state courts for people who are limited English proficient.”
“From the bill UJS introduced last year that became state law to the recent language access plan, UJS has improved the experience of LEP court users in our state,” said U.S. Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell for the District of South Dakota. “Our office is dedicated to working with state and local partners to address language access and other important civil rights issues.”
This matter was conducted jointly by attorneys in the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Dakota. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt, and information about limited English proficiency and Title VI is available at www.lep.gov. Members of the public may report possible civil rights violations at https://civilrights.justice.gov/report/ or with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Dakota by completing the complaint form available at https://www.justice.gov/usao-sd/civil-rights.