Justice Department, Louisiana Supreme Court Reach Agreement to Provide Language Assistance for Individuals Not Proficient in English

The Agreement Ensures Access to Justice Programs for Individuals in the Louisiana State Judiciary

(STL.News) – The Department of Justice has reached an agreement with the Louisiana Supreme Court (LSC) that recognizes the LSC’s commitment to work with the Louisiana Judiciary to phase-in a language access program that will provide oral and written language assistance services at no cost to limited English proficient (LEP) individuals in all state court proceedings and operations.

“I commend the Louisiana Supreme Court for its commitment to work with all state courts in Louisiana to ensure meaningful access for LEP individuals,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division.  “The collaborative relationship between the Department of Justice and the Louisiana Supreme Court will only strengthen ongoing Louisiana Supreme Court efforts to ensure equal access to justice for all.”

“This agreement is a partnership to ensure that all people, no matter their national origin, can fully and fairly access Louisiana state courts,” said U.S. Attorney Peter Strasser.  “My office is committed to preventing Title VI discrimination, in all forms, in the Louisiana Judiciary.”

This agreement resolves a Department of Justice investigation of a complaint alleging that Louisiana state courts failed to provide language access for LEP individuals, including a failure to provide LEP individuals with qualified interpreters in civil proceedings, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its regulations (Title VI).  The agreement is a commitment by the LSC to work with the Department of Justice to ensure the consistent delivery of language assistance services in the Louisiana Judiciary.

During the course of the investigation, LSC began taking steps to improve language services in state courts by retaining a Language Access Coordinator responsible for continuing to improve the LSC’s efforts and initiatives to comply with Title VI.  LSC also developed technical assistance tools and provided trainings to Louisiana state court judges about how to address encounters with LEP individuals.  Among other commitments in the agreement, the LSC will conduct an assessment of the Louisiana Judiciary to further inform the development of a more robust language access program.  The LSC will also work with the Department of Justice to create a statewide language access plan that will include a template so that each state court can develop its own plan.

This matter was jointly investigated by attorneys Dylan Nicole de Kervor and Michael Mulé of the Civil Rights Division’s Federal Coordination and Compliance Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Howard Sinkman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

This complaint was resolved as part of FCS’s efforts to ensure that state courts comply with Title VI language access requirements.  The FCS courts team provides policy guidance and technical assistance to state court systems and undertakes enforcement actions with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country.

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