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Order Creating an Advisory Task Force on Language Access in Indiana Courts

Supreme Court of Indiana

January 26, 2017

Order Creating an Advisory Task Force On Language Access in Indiana Courts

          Loretta H. Rush Chief Justice of Indiana

         In 2015, Indiana's trial courts reported that in nearly 14, 000 cases, an individual in the courtroom-whether a litigant, a witness, or a spectator-was unable to speak or understand the English language to the degree necessary for a full and fair comprehension of the proceeding; an increase from roughly 8, 000 cases two years prior in 2013. And county costs for providing interpreters in these instances have likewise increased, from roughly $470, 000 in 2013 to nearly $800, 000 in 2015.

         These individuals include foreign-born members of our society, children raised in homes where English is not the primary spoken language, and members of the deaf community. The languages interpreted range from Spanish to Burmese to American Sign Language.

         But in all such instances, the language barrier is a substantial impediment-to the litigant or defendant whose life, liberty, or property may be at stake; to the witness attempting to testify and answer questions fully and honestly; to the lawyers planning a trial strategy that requires testimony to be fully understood by witnesses; to the judge making rulings and findings based on what he or she sees and hears; to the court staff receiving court visitors and responding to questions; and to the members of the public who attend court proceedings entitled to a full and transparent understanding of our branch of government.

         Left unaddressed, this impediment will undercut the faith Hoosiers have in our justice system and the fairness of the system itself. But addressing this challenge is not, and will not be, simple. The underlying issues are complex, varied, and reach across the full spectrum of Indiana's varied culture and citizens. And resolution of those issues will require time, thoughtful consideration, and input from a broad range of stakeholders.

         An Advisory Task Force on Language Access in Indiana Courts is therefore created to work under the auspices of the Indiana Supreme Court, and with the support of the Indiana Office of Court Services, to address the issue of providing effective, fair, and efficient language access in Indiana courts, and to present findings and recommendations to the Court on the best method to meet that challenge within Indiana's judicial system. A list of the Advisory Task Force members is attached.

         In conducting its work, the Task Force should specifically address the particular matters below, in addition to any other matters it believes relevant to its charge:

a. development of a state-wide Indiana Language Access Plan;
b. development of a state-wide program for remote video interpreting services;
c. the state-wide interpreter certification program and supporting processes;
d. the translation of court documents and materials into languages other than English; and
e. policies and procedures for implementing and evaluating the above.

         The Task Force shall include, at a minimum, members of the ...


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