Justice Department Settles Investigation into Language Barriers in the Colorado Administrative Court System
The Justice Department today announced it has reached a settlement agreement with the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts (OAC) to help people with limited English proficiency (LEP) access timely and competent language assistance in the court system.
The OAC is an administrative court that hears workers’ compensation claims, as well as claims in other critical areas such as civil rights, environmental justice, education, and transportation. The agreement resolves a Justice Department investigation of the OAC under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin by recipients of federal assistance, such as the OAC. The Justice Department’s review uncovered concerns with OAC’s Title VI compliance, including a rule that prohibited the OAC from providing qualified interpreters to help limited English proficient individuals understand and participate in their court proceedings.
“For people with limited English proficiency, not getting the language services they need to participate meaningfully in a court proceeding can have truly devastating consequences," said Pamela S. Karlan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "We can’t achieve our nation’s promise of access to justice for all without dismantling language barriers in our judicial system. I commend the OAC’s Chief Judge and leadership for taking action to realize this promise and for their commitment to provide critical services for court users with limited English proficiency.”
“This agreement will result in real help for people who seek justice in Colorado’s administrative court system but who don’t speak English,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado Matt T. Kirsch. “I appreciate that Colorado’s Office of Administrative Courts recognized an opportunity to work with our office and the Civil Rights Division in crafting an agreement that will benefit communities in Colorado that speak languages other than English.”
A key aspect of the OAC’s implementation of the settlement will be a revision to its Rule 21, which will now require the OAC to provide qualified interpreters at no cost to LEP individuals in court proceedings. In addition, the OAC has created a language access policy and plan and agreed to provide notice of language assistance services in at least the top eight languages it encounters. The OAC will create and publicize a language access complaint process, and require annual training on LEP issues for judges, staff, and contractors. The strong support and active participation of the OAC’s Chief Judge and Colorado Office of the Attorney General have been key to the swift and cooperative resolution of this matter.
Under the terms of the agreement signed today, the Justice Department will monitor the OAC’s compliance for two years.
The enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 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/.