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Language Access to Justice

A message from the OJD Court Interpreter 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. 

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 Interpreter 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. www.ncsc.org 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. www.sji.gov The OJD was awarded SJI finds in 2013 to improve language access services.

We invite you to join the OJD to explore opportunities for engagement and partnership, and to call upon our office as a resource. If anyone feels they were denied appropriate language access to Oregon Judicial Department Services, we want to hear about it right away. Please send your complaint to

Court.Interpreter.Program@ojd.state.or.us

We will contact you to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Kelly Sig.jpg

Kelly Mills
Program Manager, Court Interpreter Services
Oregon Judicial Department