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Language Access to Justice

A message from the OJD Court Language Access Services Program Manager, Kelly Mills

Reduced judicial funding over the past decade has amplified the difficulty of extending language services. However, access to justice remains a core Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) value. Nearly 15 out of 100 Oregonians need language assistance to conduct their business, protect their families or meet their accusers at court. In Oregon 9.6% of Oregonians are foreign born and 14.7% speak a foreign language in their homes. Six percent report speaking English "less than very well." Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 figures.

At the end of the 20th century, Oregon's judicial and legislative leaders anticipated growth in the need for high quality language services and planned accordingly. The results today are a robust Oregon court interpreter program in 91 languages, and scheduling services in all 37 Oregon counties. Over 180 languages have been interpreted in Oregon courts since 1996 and the list continues to grow. Language access must not be a barrier to individuals trying to access the judicial system. 

Per ORS 45.275 no fee shall be charged to any Limited English Proficient person for the appointment of an interpreter. Court interpreting in circuit court shall be paid by the state.

The Oregon Judicial Department will continue to comply with local and federal laws regarding non-discrimination and best practices for the provision of court interpreting services. For further information please read

  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - Title VI, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq., part of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. It reads, "No person in the United States shall, on the grounds of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."
  • Executive Order #13166 - Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency. Signed by President Clinton on August 11, 2000, it requires agencies to identify needs for services to limited English proficient (LEP) persons, and develop and implement a system to provide services so LEP persons can have meaningful access.
  • Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) Relating to Language Interpretation - Court Language Access Services has compiled a reference guide listing where interpretation is mentioned in the ORS.
  • National Center for State Courts (NCSC) - A national collaborative work organization of the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators, and all states and territories. The OJD was awarded NCSC funds in 2014 to improve language access services.
  • NCSC's A National Call to Action - Access to Justice for Limited English Proficient Litigants: Creating Solutions to Language Barriers in State Courts. 
  • State Justice Institute (SJI) - Established by Federal law in 1984 to award grants to improve the quality of justice in State courts, facilitate better coordination between State and Federal courts, and foster innovative, efficient solutions to common issues faced by all courts. The OJD was awarded SJI finds in 2013 to improve language access services.
Having a document such as a Language Access Plan (LAP) offers invaluable opportunities for improvement of court procedures, information sharing, communication and public relations. When the community believes that the court is dedicated to providing fair services to all, the mutual goodwill serves to benefit not only the court, but also those who access it and needs its professional services. In 2012 the OJD began a self-evaluation of how well the court defines tasks, sets priorities, assigns responsibility, and allocates the resources necessary to come into or maintain compliance with language access best practices. 
A key mechanism in identifying and removing linguistic barriers is based upon the impressions of limited English proficient (LEP) court users and communities.  In 2014 the OJD received National Center for State Courts' technical assistance and funding from the State Justice Institute to develop and conduct two assessment tools to measure LEP communities' experiences and satisfaction with OJD's language access services.  The resulting report provided a detailed snapshot of issues experienced by speakers of thirty-two different languages.  These results are being analyzed and incorporated into a revised LAP that outlines how the court defines tasks, sets priorities, assigns responsibility, and allocates the resources necessary to come into or maintain compliance with language access requirements. The OJD LAP is meant to be action oriented and provide a standardization of flexible service plans for statewide trial courts to serve LEP and self-represented litigants.  It includes replicable standards, policies, and protocols for language access in the courts.  Under the direction of the Chief Justice and State Court Administrator, the OJD's LAP will include activities and assigned responsibilities to mitigate concerns and ensure improvement may be undertaken on a regular basis.  If you are interested in providing written feedback to the OJD Language Access Plan, please contact Kelly Mills, Court Language Access Services Program Manager at 503-986-7004,


Kelly Sig.jpg

Kelly Mills
Program Manager, Court Language Access Services
Oregon Judicial Department


2004 OJD Language Access Plan