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AAJC Commemorates Anniversary of Language-Assistance Order

Monday, August 23, 2010

WASHINGTON—This month the Asian American Justice Center celebrates the 10th anniversary of the presidential executive order that requires state courts to provide people who are not fluent in English with language assistance and thanked the Justice Department with its continued vigilance on this point.

Earlier this week, the Justice Department issued a letter to state courts reminding them of their obligations under civil rights laws including Executive Order 13166, which requires federal agencies to ensure that recipients of federal funds provide meaningful access to people with limited English skills. President Clinton signed the act in August 2000.

“The 10th anniversary of Executive Order 13166 is a significant milestone,” said Marita Etcubañez, AAJC’s programs director.“Over the last 10 years, much progress has been made to make court services accessible to people who need language assistance, but as the guidance from the Justice Department makes clear, problems persist.”

The Justice Department’s letter made several points, including the following:
•Interpretation is required in all court proceedings.
•Courts must provide interpretation services free of charge.
•The requirement of “meaningful access” extends beyond the courtroom to clerks’ offices, probation & parole offices, pro se clinics, anger management classes, etc.
“We thank the Justice Department for its leadership on this issue and look forward to working with the Department to address language barriers so as to ensure that the Asian American community has full and meaningful access to the courts,” Etcubañez added.

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