Quetzaltepec Mixe in the courtroom?

At the past year’s ATJ public hearings, I learned  how pervasive the language-barrier can be in a courtroom.

South Carolina law mandates foreign-language interpreters in court proceedings. Spanish and American Sign Language interpreters were two of the most needed within the South Carolina court system.  Court interpreter certification, compensation and procedural mechanisms for obtaining a court interpreter are several of the issues that have been raised in working towards the goal of creating easy access to much-needed court interpreters.

Another issue that arises in the context of court interpreters is when a party to a proceeding does not speak English, it is useful to have multiple interpreters in the courtroom to ensure a fair proceeding.

The state of California also mandates foreign-language interpreters in courtroom proceedings.

California’s court interpreter assignment operation has over 100 languages represented by its interpreters.  The court has less stringent standards for more unusual languages, but this article I found in the L.A. Times illustrates the great lengths some CA courts have gone to in order to provide the appropriate interpreter to a litigant.

The article also does an excellent job of highlighting many problems faced by litigants who are not provided with the appropriate interpreter in courtroom proceedings. Not only are these litigants unable to articulate answers to questions and fully present their side of the story, but judges and attorneys can become impatient when litigants have problems answering simple questions, and court transcripts are usually only in English, so the potential for a miscarriage of justice because of a simple translation error increases.

Nonetheless, no case in CA has been thrown out because an interpreter was unable to be found.

While it is unlikely that a litigant in a South Carolina courtroom will need a Quetzaltepec Mixe interpreter anytime soon, SCATJ, in conjunction with court administration and other players have taken the need for courtroom interpreters seriously and have been working diligently to resolve many issues surrounding the provision of court interpreters.

-Alex

Help! Where do I find Access to Justice Updates?

Where can I find MORE about ATJ?

Have you ever found yourself stuck on where to find Access to Justice updates? Fear not, you can always check here.

But just in case you wonder whether you’ve found the latest news, you can click here to view the ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives.

Or if you’re hip and tuned in to Twitter, check out techno.la’s access to justice tweets at http://twitter.com/accesstojustice or follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scatj.

-RFW

Hot off the Press – West Virginia Approves ATJ Initiative!

CELEBRATE!           WOOHOO!

I just (4:44 p.m. EST) received an email from Jennifer Singletary, Special Counsel at the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia informing me that the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia approved Justice Brent Benjamin’s proposal to initiate an Access to Justice program in West Virginia.

Welcome Aboard West Virginia!

South Carolina is pleased and honored to recognize a fellow ATJ collaborator!

-RFW

The Name’s Bono, Pro Bono

bono

It seems only appropriate to use a movie theme as we start to close out the year. After all, in Hollywood, this is the time for new releases as well as a time to reflect on movies from the past year. The same is true in the Access to Justice (ATJ) Community.

There are 4 main components to ATJ:

  1. EDUCATION. Education of the Bench, Bar, and General Public about ATJ as well as what’s currently available for people living within the federal poverty guidelines or those living just above the guidelines, but still unable to afford legal representation.
  2. STAFFED PROGRAMS. This category encompasses LEGAL SERVICES, in South Carolina SCLS, as well as other IOLTA grantees such as Crisis Ministries (homeless), Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation (heirs’ property), CODA (domestic abuse), SisterCare (domestic abuse), SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center (poverty groups and policy), and Low Country Legal Aid to name a few. The Commission would like to expand this collaboration to include entities such as Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. (P&A)Catholic Charities,  Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services and others who are providing much needed legal services to people who would otherwise remain disenfranchised. The goal is to collaborate and coordinate in order to serve more while maintaining high quality legal services.
  3. PRO BONO. This category expands to the entire Bar membership, the South Carolina Bar’s Pro Bono Program and law firm pro bono programs, as well as paraprofessional organizations such as the South Carolina Court Reporters Association (SCCRA) and paralegal associations. And Law Students – YOU play a large role as well. Law librarians also play a large role. We are looking to expand existing services and develop new services.
  4. SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS (SRLs). This category encompasses all of the previous components in order to provide quality resources to SRLs as well as develop new resources including forms, clear guidelines, instructional packets, clinics, etc.

None of these components can exist in a vacuum. They must co-exist and coordinate in order for access to justice to become a reality.

Today’s focus is PRO BONO; Pro Bono in South Carolina and Pro Bono elsewhere.

SOUTH CAROLINA. There have been previous posts about the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program, namely that nominations for Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year are due – NEXT WEEK.

It saddens me that as of this post today there have been NO NOMINATIONS RECEIVED!

Now, I know there are South Carolina attorneys who have volunteered their services in the past year for pro bono. So why aren’t they are clambering for recognitition? Isn’t there at least ONE person who will see this post and nominate someone?

If  you are an attorney who has NOT yet participated in the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program, let’s address why not, shall we?

  • LACK of TIME. Did you know that the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program receives requests of all kinds and staff will take into consideration the amount of time you’re willing to spend?
  • LACK of INSURANCE. Did you know that the SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program provides malpractice insurance to ALL of its participants? Even if you are currently unemployed, you will be covered.
  • LACK of EXPERIENCE. NOT TO WORRY! The SC Bar’s Pro Bono Program has MENTORS! Just request one when you sign up. This also allows you the opportunity to NETWORK and grow in another practice area. AND when you sign up, you are eligible for FREE TRAINING! That’s right – FREE!
  • LACK of KNOWLEDGE about the PROGRAM. What do you want to know? If it’s not covered on the website, then feel free to call Angela McKeirnan at 803-799-6653 x. 169 or 877-797-2227 x. 169 for more information. She’ll answer your questions.
  • My job/firm doesn’t allow me to represent individuals. Ok, there are other tasks you can do such as develop manuals, conduct training/clinics in the evening or weekends, ASK-A-LAWYER, be a MENTOR, etc. Just ask.
  • LACK of MOTIVATION. Did you know that Pro Bono attorneys actually feel BETTER after assisting others? Additionally with all the community good will you’re developing, it may benefit your rainmaking efforts without having to go into overdrive. Try it, you just might like it.

And now for Pro Bono news elsewhere:

NY: Found on The Home Equity Theft Reporter – HEADLINE: NYC Pro Bono Effort Training Lawyers In Fight Against Foreclosures. Full story at http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=4&id=25032.

NY: Attorney Adrienne Flipse Hausch of Garden City has been recognized for her outstanding pro bono legal commitment. Full story at http://www.gcnews.com/news/2008/1205/Community/034.html

FL: Found on http://www.suncoast.com (WWSB ABC Channel 7) – “Study: Fla. lawyers lax on free legal service.” Report found at http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/pub_info/documents/2008_Pro_Bono_Report.pdf.

CA: Santa Clara Bar offers Pro Bono Boot Camp tomorrow – found at http://www.probono.net/calendar/event.221637-Pro_Bono_Boot_Camp.

Western Australia: Pro bono work standard practice found at http://www.wabusinessnews.com.au/login.php?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wabusinessnews.com.au%2Fstory%2F1%2F69039%2FPro-bono-work-standard-practice.

-RFW