Language Access

Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VI”), agencies that receive federal funding must provide language access, including interpretation and translation of vital documents, to individuals with limited English proficiency (“LEP”).  Agencies that receive federal funding include most state and local agencies, such as subsidized housing providers, schools, police departments, courts, and hospitals.  We represent LEP clients in enforcing their language access rights under Title VI.

Property Management, Inc. (“PMI”) HUD complaints:

CJP filed an administrative complaint with HUD on behalf of four LEP residents living in project-based Section 8 housing near Pittsburgh managed by a nationwide property management company.  Our complaint alleged that the property management company was failing to provide interpretation and translation to LEP tenants, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and Title VI.  Additionally, we alleged that the property was not being maintained as well as other properties operated by the same management company because this property is in a predominately Black and Latino community.  We eventually reached a nationwide agreement that requires the management company to provide language access services across all of its subsidized properties.  Our clients also received financial compensation for the hardships suffered as a result of the discrimination they endured.

Language Access Advocacy with AOPC:

CJP is involved with a work group, including Community Legal Services, Justice at Work, and the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, to address statewide language access issues with Pennsylvania courts.  The group has been meeting regularly over the last several years with staff from the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) to talk about ways to address these problems.

The working group has advocated for critical issues, such as how to ensure early identification of the need for language services so that LEP individuals can timely request and receive in-person interpretation at their hearings. This advocacy produced a Language Rights poster informing LEP persons in multiple languages of their right to an interpreter; formed a statewide stakeholders group to advise it on language access matters; and enforced language access requirements on Magisterial District Justice (MDJ) offices and courts in Hazleton, Scranton, Reading, Allentown, and Juniata County in response to reports of non-compliance with Title VI language access requirements in these areas from CJP and its partners.  After over a year of work, the statewide Unified Judicial System (UJS) Language Access Plan was finalized by the advisory group and then approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in March 2017.

Following approval of the Plan, AOPC assembled a Monitoring and Enforcement Team (MET) to work on implementing the State Language Access Plan at the MDJ, Common Pleas, and appellate court level across the state.  Together we have worked to: implement guidance and policies; develop templates for local plans; draft amendments to the Rule of Judicial Administration and PA Interpreter Act that would codify and make judicially enforceable the requirements of the Statewide Language Access Plan; develop a tool for compiling information from each judicial district to show the measures adopted to implement the various requirements of the UJS language access plan; and monitor implementation with the help of various PA law school clinics and pro bono programs.

Hazleton Police Department:

CJP filed Title VI administrative complaints against the Hazleton Police Department, alleging that the police department failed to provide interpreters during important interactions with LEP residents. The Department of Justice investigated and the case eventually settled, requiring the police department to implement a comprehensive language access policy. This case also received widespread press coverage.  The DOJ’s press release is available here.