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Friday, May 11, 2012

UC Hastings to Survey Language Access to Courts

UC Hastings College of the Law is helping the state Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) identify creative ways California courts respond to the challenge of serving court users whose proficiency in English is limited.

The AOC retained UC Hastings as a consultant on the project after the AOC received a $35,000 grant from the State Justice Institute to survey best practices for serving court users with limited English proficiency. The study’s goal is to highlight and replicate successful programs.

Professor David Jung and Noemi Gallardo ’12, who has a master’s degree in public policy and worked as a certified court interpreter before attending UC Hastings, head up the study for UC Hastings. Jung and Gallardo worked together last year to write “A Local Official’s Guide to Language Access Laws,” published by the League of California Cities Institute for Local Government and UC Hastings’ Public Law Research Institute.

They have assembled a team of 10 UC Hastings students and recent graduates to conduct the survey. “It’s a unique opportunity for our students to think about how courts serve the public,” Jung said. “UC Hastings’ location and popular externship programs give our students unparalleled exposure to the courts. Participating in this study will give them the civilian’s perspective, helping them understand the many ways in which courts provide services essential to people’s lives.”

California is one of the nation’s most linguistically diverse states. By some counts, nearly 170 languages are spoken in California. In Los Angeles County alone, more than half of residents speak a language other than English at home, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.

Jung noted that UC Hastings’ diverse student body is one of the reasons UC Hastings is the right partner for this project. “When we had our first meeting with the 10 students, we had 14 languages in the room,” Jung said. “That gives you an idea of our diversity.”

This is the first project funded under the Master Agreement for Research Collaboration UC Hastings and the Administrative Office of the Courts entered last year.

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