Justice Department Informs City of Lexington and Lexington Police Department That Automatically Jailing People for Unpaid Fines Violates Constitution
Note: This press release has been translated into several languages. See the attached files.
The Justice Department announced today the resolution of a matter involving the Louisiana Supreme Court (LASC) based on actions LASC has taken to improve access to state court proceedings and operations for people with limited English proficiency (LEP).
In May 2019, the Justice Department and LASC entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to address a complaint under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI). Title VI is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin by any recipients of federal financial assistance, including state courts. Since the MOA was signed, LASC has taken a number of remedial actions to improve access for court users across Louisiana who are LEP.
“Courts across our country must ensure that the courthouse door is open to all, including people with limited English proficiency,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We will continue working to ensure that court systems, like the Louisiana Supreme Court, have the policies, practices, interpreters and other resources necessary to ensure access to justice for people with limited English proficiency.”
“With its actions, the Louisiana Supreme Court demonstrated a commitment to ensuring access to state courts in Louisiana for persons who are LEP,” said U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “My office is committed to addressing all forms of discrimination, including discrimination against persons who are LEP.”
LASC has taken a number of actions to develop and implement a language access program and expand the availability of free language assistance services for people with LEP in Louisiana. LASC established an Office of Language Access and adopted the first Language Access Plan for Louisiana courts. LASC also created a centralized language access complaint system with an online complaint form in several non-English languages. For court staff, LASC developed training programs on language access, a judicial bench card focusing on access to court interpreters, and other language access resources. Further, LASC successfully advocated for a change to a state law that had allowed courts to charge people with LEP for the cost of an interpreter and then adopted new court rules based on that change in state law.
This matter was conducted jointly by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana. 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/.