Your Right to Language Services in Court

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Have you ever had trouble understanding your court proceeding? Tell us your story—you’re not alone.

Our recent investigation into the Pennsylvania courts shows that many are failing to fulfill their obligation to provide language support, including interpreters and written materials in other languages, to people who do not speak English as their native language.To learn more about how these issues are affecting non-native speakers, we want to hear the stories of people who have been hurt by not getting language support during their court case. All stories will be confidential, and no story will be made public without permission.

Please contact us if you are a non-native speaker who has not been given “meaningful access” to the courts. It’s not enough for litigants to kind of or mostly understand their court proceedings; “meaningful access” means understanding the proceedings—period. If people have been given meaningful access to the courts, they should walk away from their time in court feeling that they understood what happened, grasping the meaning of any paperwork they may have signed, and knowing that they had been able to get their point across clearly when they spoke. Many non-native English speakers are able to have meaningful access without assistance. There are, however, many non-native speakers who should have an interpreter with them in court and legal materials given to them in their native language. These people include:

  • People who don’t speak English at all, or who only speak English a little.
  • People who speak some English but have trouble understanding it in certain situations, like when English is spoken quickly or when they are asked questions which require complex vocabulary.
  • People who speak conversational English but who would feel more comfortable with extra support.

If you feel you might have been affected, please share your story by calling the ACLU at 877-745-2258 and immediately press 1 to leave a message, making sure to spell your first and last name, leave a phone number (or address if you have no phone), and briefly explain what happened to you. If you would prefer to send a letter, please mail it to:

ACLU PA- Intake Dept.
PO Box 60173
Philadelphia, PA 19102

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