Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Supreme Court has modified its rules to provide Limited English Proficient (LEP) Tennesseans with more meaningful access to court hearings. The new rules go into effect on July 1, when an additional $2 million in funding will be available to the courts. The additional funding provided an opportunity to modify how language access services are delivered.
“I am grateful to Governor Haslam and our legislature for taking this important step to ensure that justice for all is available for all Tennesseans,” Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark said. “It is very important that not only those charged with a crime, but also crime victims, divorcing parents, persons who owe rent and anyone who finds himself/herself before the courts are able to communicate effectively.”
The new funding and the new rules will help judges better communicate with parties in civil and criminal cases and will enable LEP persons to more fully participate in court proceedings and understand what is expected of them. Before the new funding, interpreter costs were paid for by the state in cases where a person was entitled to an attorney and could not afford to pay for an attorney. These cases included criminal, child abuse and neglect cases and termination of parental rights cases.
The new rules will now provide for qualified interpreters to be paid for all hearings before a judge or judicial magistrate in cases where a court finds an interpreter is needed.
The Tennessee Supreme Court rules have always required that the courts appoint interpreters as needed and that the interpreters appointed, if possible, be credentialed. Credentialed interpreters have taken courses and passed tests to become qualified to interpret in the court system.
For more information on Interpreter Services, visit http://www.tncourts.gov/programs/court-interpreters.