The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has a new bone to pick with the states: court interpreters.
The division contends that any state that fails to provide language interpreters to all defendants free of charge, will be violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Associated Press reports. The AP reports that the DOJ has the support of the American Bar Association in its efforts, but some state officials dispute the department’s claims and argue instead that they only must take “reasonable steps” to provide free interpreters, citing a 2002 DOJ guidance.
The DOJ’s push for free interpreters already has had an impact in one state.
On June 28, the Civil Rights Division entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Judicial Department of Colorado over its failure to provide interpreters. Under the agreement, signed by Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, DOJ will monitor Colorado’s compliance with the agreement. It states that “a civil action in federal court to enforce the terms of this MOA” will follow if Colorado fails to comply.
Perez told the AP that there are ongoing investigations in a number of other states.
The push for interpreters is in line with the aggressive approach taken by the Civil Rights Division recently against what states practices it believes violate the law. Last week, the division sued Louisiana for insufficient voter registration efforts, and it has not shied away from hotly contested national issues such as Arizona’s immigration law.