Goals & Activities

In early 2009, coalition members interested in criminal justice established a subcommittee and devised a strategy for addressing language access in the courts, which many saw as one of the key structural, systemic flaws in the criminal justice system in the New Orleans area. Partners from various organizations, such as Louisiana Appleseed, the Loyola Law Clinic, the Hispanic Apostolate, Puentes New Orleans, the Hispanic Lawyer’s Association, and the Orleans Public Defender, agreed that the issue had to be evaluated from a statewide perspective. Any attempt to address systemic flaws in one set of parish courts would not guarantee replication in another jurisdiction. The subcommittee chose to pursue systemic change at the state agency level rather than through the legislature, in part because they recognized the authority that the Louisiana Supreme Court has to mandate statewide standards across all Louisiana courts, and also because it made better sense to establish an ally with the Louisiana Supreme Court (LaSC) before pursuing legislative action.

The result of this strategy was the creation of working teams that researched and developed components of a rule recommendation that the subcommittee would submit to the Louisiana Supreme Court. The draft rule recommendation was completed in September 2009 and submitted to the Louisiana State Bar Association (LSBA) for support. Members of LSBA approved our rule recommendation and adopted it as an item on their legislative agenda for 2010, which they forwarded to the Chief Justice in April 2010. During this time, Representative Cedric Richmond passed a resolution supporting the implementation of statewide interpreter standards for the courts.

Judicial Council of the LaSC reviewed the recommended rule for statewide interpreter standards and moved to create a committee that is charged with evaluating the recommendations in the rule and provide action recommendations at the Judicial Council level, which will took place in Spring 2011.

These events have led, within one year’s time, to the State of Louisiana inching closer towards compliance with the rest of the nation. Louisiana was one of ten states without statewide standards for court interpreters, which puts the state at a higher risk of civil rights violations. In fact, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice did issue a letter to Louisiana in 2010 regarding this matter, effectively putting the State of Louisiana on notice. The Judicial Council of the LaSC has moved to adopt standards and change their operations to meet these standards. This processes include a new program to train court interpreters of May 2013.

We believe that the State of Louisiana and all its courts will adopt the majority of the recommendations provided in the rule the subcommittee created, and that as a result, Louisiana will continue move in a positive direct. We are also hopeful that Louisiana aggressively pursues a progressive stance on this issue and create a model process and program that serves as a best practice nationally.

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