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Press Release

Justice Department Enters Agreement with the New York State Unified Court System to Resolve Title VI Language Access Review

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

View the press release in Yiddish here.

The Justice Department announced today a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the New York State Court System, Office of Court Administration (OCA) to improve access to the Rockland County, New York, Drug Treatment Court for people with limited English proficiency (LEP). The department enforces 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. Prohibited discrimination may include a failure to provide meaningful language access.

“Ensuring equal justice under law means doing so in a manner that is fair, accurate and understandable for all, but that does not happen unless people involved in the judicial process can communicate with each other,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “People should not be penalized for their limited English proficiency and should receive the language assistance services they need to fairly participate in court proceedings and court-mandated trainings or treatment programs. This agreement stands as a model for ensuring access to the courts, including their programs and services, for all people, regardless of English proficiency, and outlines the actions needed to eliminate barriers for court users with limited English proficiency.”

“Members of the community should not be denied meaningful access to court proceedings and programs offering alternatives to traditional sentencing because of their limited English proficiency,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York. “We thank the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office and OCA for working with us to ensure that the Rockland County Drug Treatment Court is available to all eligible participants, and we hope that this memorandum of understanding can serve as a model for all courts in this district to ensure meaningful access to persons with limited English proficiency, in compliance with Title VI.”

The Justice Department reviewed a complaint alleging that people with LEP could not participate fully in the Rockland County Drug Treatment Court because it did not provide meaningful language access. Shortly after this complaint, OCA became involved in the language access procedures for the Rockland County Drug Treatment Court and OCA ultimately assumed responsibility for the Court in March.

Together with the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office, which ran the Drug Treatment Court prior to March, OCA took several affirmative steps to provide meaningful access for all Rockland County Drug Treatment Court users with LEP during the department’s review of this matter. Among other actions, OCA committed to provide interpreter services for all court proceedings at no cost and conducted outreach to Rockland County Drug Treatment Court stakeholders about meaningful access for people with LEP.

Under the MOU, OCA will take a number of additional steps to ensure meaningful access for LEP participants in Rockland County Drug Treatment Court. These steps include translating all documents into Spanish, Creole and Yiddish, and into other languages by request, and securing treatment providers that will offer court-mandated drug treatment programs in a manner that provides meaningful access to people with LEP, at no additional cost to participants.

Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt. 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 www.civilrights.justice.gov/report/  or with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York at www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/civil-rights.

Updated June 11, 2024

Topic
Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 24-734