Resolution Supporting Federal Legislation Providing Funding For State Court Interpreters

WHEREAS, on June 27, 1994 the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association adopted a resolution calling for testing and certification of foreign language interpreters in Pennsylvania Courts which also addressed the need for electronic recording of non-English and sign language testimony;

WHEREAS, in March 2003 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Committee on Racial and Gender Bias in the Judicial System made extensive findings and recommendations after exhaustive study as to changes needed to make the state judicial system accessible to persons with limited English proficiency, stating that “Upgrading the capacity of the Pennsylvania judicial system to provide justice for all, regardless of English language ability, should be a priority for the Commonwealth”;

WHEREAS, according to the Report of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Committee on Racial and Gender Bias, Pennsylvania courts in recent years have requested oral language interpretation services in more than 50 different languages and dialects;

WHEREAS, the federal government interprets Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, et seq., as mandating that recipients of federal financial assistance (including the Court of Common Pleas and Pennsylvania state agencies and those programs receiving funds from those agencies) must ensure that their programs and activities normally provided in English are accessible to persons with limited English proficiency;

WHEREAS, the number of persons in Pennsylvania who have limited English proficiency continues to increase;

WHEREAS, on September 25, 2003, the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association adopted a resolution “Concerning Equal Access to Courts and Administrative Agencies by Limited English Proficient Persons and Persons with Disabilities,” establishing participation by the Association in the Campaign for Litigants’ Equal Participation;

WHEREAS, the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia on September 29, 2001 issued an Executive Order, directing all City of Philadelphia agencies to develop compliance programs for providing meaningful access to their federally funded programs and activities for persons with limited English proficiency;

WHEREAS, the City of Philadelphia has a diverse cultural and ethnic population;

WHEREAS, in recent years, the Association has increased its work with immigrant and non-English speaking communities;

WHEREAS, the City of Philadelphia and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have attempted to promote economic development through attracting international businesses to the region;

WHEREAS, in 2006 Act 172 was signed into law in Pennsylvania mandating the provision of interpreters for both court proceedings and administrative agency proceedings;

WHEREAS, U.S. Senate Bill 702, the State Court Interpreter Grant Program Act, authorizes the Attorney General to award grants to State courts to develop and implement State courts interpreter programs;

WHEREAS, U.S. Senate Bill 702 would assist in the implementation of Pennsylvania Act 172 and would help to ensure the rights of all Pennsylvanians, regardless of English proficiency;

WHEREAS, U.S. Senate Bill 702 has the support of the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators, the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, and the National Center for State Courts, among others.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association Board of Governors supports passage of U.S. Senate Bill 702 or similar legislation.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chancellor or his/her designee is authorized to communicate the support of the Philadelphia Bar Association for U.S. Senate Bill 702 or similar legislation to the appropriate legislators, and to otherwise effectuate this resolution.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: MARCH 27, 2008