US: ACLU Says Defendants Have a Constitutional Right to Court Interpreters


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ACLU Says Defendants Have a Constitutional Right to Court Interpreters

Criminal defendants with limited English proficiency are entitled to court interpreters by the U.S. Constitution, according to a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia, and the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center in a case before the Georgia Supreme Court. "We don't have two systems of justice in this country—one for English-speakers and another for everyone else," says Azadeh Shahshahani with the ACLU of Georgia's National Security/Immigrants' Rights Project. "The constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection apply to everyone in this country, not just to fluent English-speakers." The ACLU and LAS-ELC filed their brief on behalf of Annie Ling, a Mandarin speaker who received a 10-year prison sentence following a trial in which she did not have an interpreter. Although Ling's trial attorney acknowledged that he could not properly communicate with his client without an interpreter, he chose not to ask the court for an interpreter because he felt it would delay the trial and try the jury's patience. The ACLU/LAS-ELC brief contends that refusing LEP individuals interpreters during criminal trials violates the Constitution's guarantee of due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, along with the Sixth Amendment rights of criminal defendants to confront witnesses, attend their own trial, and receive effective assistance of counsel. The brief also argues that under Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 the state of Georgia is required to provide competent interpreting services to all LEP individuals who come into contact with its court system.

From "Defendants With a Limited English Proficiency Have a Constitutional Right to Court Interpreters, Says ACLU"
American Civil Liberties Union (DC) (06/07/10)

Source: ATA Newsbriefs - June 2010


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