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The Interbranch Commission implements recommendations from the Report of The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Committee on Racial, and Gender Bias in The Justice System. View the Report

Interpreter Services Committee

Chaired by Leonard Rivera, Esq., the Interpreter Services Committee's overarching goal is to improve access among litigants of limited English proficiency to interpreter and translation services in the Commonwealth's courts and administrative agencies. The Committee’s current initiatives include:

  • education of state court judges on best practices when interacting with immigrant court users;
  • improving language access in the courts; and
  • outreach to limited English proficiency communities.

Immigrants in State Courts: On the basis of recent reports of how the fear of immigration enforcement has negatively impacted minority participation in Pennsylvania’s court system, Commission staff prepared a memo with these reports, relevant case law, and recommendations for the PA Supreme Court, to be found in the right-hand column. Along with further distribution of the memo, the Committee is working to bring more attention to these cases and to reports concerning some judges’ improper involvement in immigration matters in their courts.

Language Access: The Committee played a key role in the passage of Act 172, which established a certification system for court interpreters and mandated that interpreters be provided in certain court and most administrative proceedings. The Committee works closely with the Language Access Coordinator in the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts to educate Pennsylvania judicial districts about their responsibilities under the law and the state regulations regarding the provision of interpreter services. See the links under Reports, at right, for the website maintained by the Office of Interpreter Services for more information on interpreter services within the Pennsylvania court system, including the statewide roster of certified or otherwise qualified interpreters, guidelines for the procurement of interpreters, training sessions and bilingual court documents. See, also at right, a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer concerning the establishment of more stringent requirements for court interpreters in Pennsylvania.  

Education and Outreach: The Committee also collaborates with Widener University's Legal Education Institute to provide training for interpreters, judges, and attorneys on the proper use of interpreters in court and administrative proceedings. Additionally, this and following the release of the AOPC’s Language Access Plan, the Committee is compiling training materials for language access training seminars to share with District Attorney Offices, police departments, minority bar associations, and other non-profit organizations to encourage them to hold low-cost training sessions.

The Committee's past initiatives include:

  • a survey of the provision of interpreter services in administrative agency proceedings;
  • translation and publication of key court forms;
  • and other initiatives outlined in Chapter One of the Final Report of the Supreme Court Committee on Racial and Gender Bias in the Justice System.