The US Department of Justice (DOJ) Tuesday settled an agreement with the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts (OAC) to offer language assistance to people with limited English proficiency (LEP) in the Colorado court system. The OAC hears claims related to workers’ compensation, civil rights, and education among others.
The settlement comes after the DOJ launched an investigation into an OAC policy that prevented Colorado courts from offering language assistance to LEP individuals that would enable them to participate in their own court proceedings. With the settlement in place, OAC will now be required to provide free language services and qualified interpreters under the newly revised Rule 21 of OAC’s Procedural Rules. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Pamela Karlan said in a press release:
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.
The newly implemented policies will require OAC to notify LEP individuals of their right to an interpreter in one of the top eight available languages. OAC also plans to create a streamlined language access complaint process for those who believe they have been denied language access. Judges, staff, and contractors will now be required to complete mandatory annual training to help facilitate the LEP program.
The DOJ will continue to monitor OAC’s progress every six months for two years to ensure compliance with the settlement terms. Both parties will agree on the format of semiannual reports within 60 days of the effective settlement date. The conditions further stipulate that the DOJ may pursue legal action against OAC if OAC fails to comply with the terms and the parties are unable to resolve the dispute in good faith.