Supreme Court justice targets court language barriers

California supreme court justice wants the California court system to be more accessible to people who speak English as a second language or not at all.

News Story (California)

Chloe F. Johnson
Napa Valley Register
September 11, 2015

Tags: Language Access


This is not a small challenge. While California’s government has already integrated Spanish into some of its proceedings, according to Cuéllar, there are more than 200 languages spoken in California, most of them completely unrepresented in the courts. This sometimes forces children to act as interpreters for parents in court.

“We’re providing justice to a very diverse society,” Cuéllar said. “There are seven million Californians that don’t speak English fully. We have a duty to make sure our courts work for everyone.”

Cuéllar compared language access to physical access. Pointing out that there are some parts of California where the nearest courthouse is many miles away, he said that not understanding English fully was an equal barrier.

To improve California’s court system for non-English speakers, Cuéllar wants to integrate technology into court proceedings, which could include digital signs in courthouses where someone can select his or her language, like at bank ATMs, and in some cases, working with interpreters remotely through video technology.