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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Justice Department Resolves Language Access Investigation of North Carolina Courts

Note: This press release has been translated in various languages. See attachments below.

The Justice Department today announced an agreement with the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (NCAOC) that resolves a civil rights investigation and commits to improved access to state court for people with limited English proficiency (LEP).

This agreement resolves Justice Department findings that the NCAOC failed to provide LEP court users with meaningful language access to court proceedings and other important court services in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits recipients of federal financial assistance from discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin. The department found that the lack of language services resulted in longer incarcerations, conflicts of interests in criminal proceedings and barriers to important civil protections in domestic violence and child custody proceedings.

In response, the NCAOC has worked extensively with the Justice Department to expand language assistance services and improve access for LEP court users in North Carolina. For instance, NCAOC adopted Standards for Language Access Services in the North Carolina Court System and expanded interpreter coverage to all proceedings. Under the terms of this agreement, NCAOC has agreed to take additional steps to ensure meaningful language access for LEP court users.

“To promote public trust and confidence in the judiciary, state courts need effective language access policies and procedures that remove barriers to justice for limited English proficiency individuals,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This agreement builds upon the court’s past efforts to improve access for people who are limited English proficient and will ensure meaningful and effective language access services in North Carolina’s courts going forward.”

As set forth in the agreement, NCAOC will continue to provide LEP court users with interpreter services at no cost in all court proceedings and free language assistance services in court operations. The NCAOC will reconvene the Language Access Stakeholder Committee which will help it assess and improve existing court language access policies and procedures. The NCAOC will also translate into non-English languages vital information, including the interpreter request form and the notice of interpreter services. 

The enforcement of Title VI is a top priority of the Civil Rights Division. 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/.

Updated October 25, 2022