IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
July 10, 2012
Mr. Kohl introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
To authorize the Attorney General to award grants to State courts to develop and implement State court interpreter programs.
This Act may be cited as the
State Court Interpreter Grant Program
Act of 2012.
Congress finds that—
the fair administration of justice depends on the ability of all participants in a courtroom proceeding to understand that proceeding, regardless of their English proficiency;
21 percent of the population of the United States over 5 years of age speaks a language other than English at home;
only qualified and certified court interpreters can ensure that persons with limited English proficiency comprehend judicial proceedings in which they are a party;
the knowledge and skills required of a qualified court interpreter differ substantially from those required in other interpretation settings, such as social service, medical, diplomatic, and conference settings;
the Federal Government has demonstrated its commitment to equal administration of justice, regardless of English proficiency;
regulations implementing title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000d et seq.), as well as the guidance issued by the Department of Justice pursuant to Executive Order 13166, issued August 11, 2000, clarify that all recipients of Federal financial assistance, including State courts, are required to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to their proceedings for persons with limited English proficiency;
43 States have developed, or are developing, qualified court interpreter programs;
a robust and effective court interpreter program—
actively recruits skilled individuals to serve as court interpreters;
trains those individuals in the interpretation of court proceedings;
develops and uses a thorough, systematic certification process for court interpreters;
has sufficient funding to ensure that a qualified and certified interpreter will be available to the court whenever necessary; and
efficiently uses funding to create substantial cost savings; and
Federal funding is necessary to—
encourage State courts that do not have court interpreter programs to develop them;
assist State courts with nascent court interpreter programs to implement them;
assist State courts with limited court interpreter programs to enhance them; and
assist State courts with robust court interpreter programs to make further improvements and share successful cost saving programs with other States.
State court interpreter program
The Administrator of the Office of Justice
Programs of the Department of Justice (referred to in this section as the
Administrator) shall make grants, in accordance with such
regulations as the Attorney General may prescribe, to State courts to develop
and implement programs to assist individuals with limited English proficiency
to access and understand State court proceedings in which they are a
Use of Grants
A State court may use a grant awarded under this subsection to—
develop or enhance a court interpreter program for the State court;
develop, institute, and administer language certification examinations;
recruit, train, and certify qualified court interpreters;
pay for salaries, transportation, and technology necessary to implement the court interpreter program developed or enhanced under subparagraph (A);
provide for remote interpretation services to facilitate certified court interpretations when costs prohibit in-person interpretation; or
engage in other related activities, as prescribed by the Attorney General.
The highest State court of each State seeking a grant under this section shall submit an application to the Administrator at such time, in such manner, and accompanied by such information as the Administrator may reasonably require.
The highest State court of each State submitting an application under paragraph (1) shall include in the application—
a demonstration of need for the development, implementation, or expansion of a State court interpreter program;
an identification of each State court in that State that would receive funds from the grant;
the amount of funds that each State court identified under subparagraph (B) would receive from the grant; and
the procedures that the highest State court would use to directly distribute grant funds to State courts identified under subparagraph (B).
State court allotments
From amounts appropriated for each fiscal year pursuant to section 5, the Administrator shall allocate $100,000 to the highest court of each State that has an application approved under subsection (b).
From amounts appropriated for each fiscal year pursuant to section 5, the Administrator shall allocate $5,000,000 to be distributed among the highest State courts that—
have an application approved under subsection (b); and
are located in a State with extraordinary needs that prevent the development, implementation, or expansion of a State court interpreter program.
In determining whether a State has extraordinary needs required under subparagraph (A), the Administrator shall consider—
based on data from the Bureau of the Census, the ratio between the number of people over 5 years of age who speak a language other than English at home and identify as speaking English less than very well—
in that State; and
in all of the States that receive an allocation under paragraph (1); and
any efficiency or substantial cost savings expected from a State court interpreter program.
In allocating amounts under subparagraph (A), the Administrator shall give priority to any State that does not have and has not begun to develop a qualified court interpreter program.
Treatment of District of Columbia
For purposes of this section—
the District of Columbia shall be treated as a State; and
the District of Columbia Court of Appeals shall act as the highest State court for the District of Columbia.
Not later than 1 year after the date on which the first grant is made under section 3, the Administrator shall submit a report to Congress that describes how each highest State court has used the funds from each grant made under section 3 in a manner consistent with section 3(a)(2).
Authorization of appropriations
There are authorized to be appropriated $10,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2013 through 2017 to carry out this Act.