Meaningful access : proposal for Spanish language proceedings in Hidalgo County, Texas
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This paper will set out to explore the possibility of implementing Spanish-Language Judicial Proceedings in Hidalgo County, Texas. This February, the American Bar Association adopted new Standards for Language Access in State Courts, which assert the need for state courts to improve access to the judicial system for limited-English proficient (LEP) persons through the use of interpreters. This study investigates the possibility of conducting a proceeding in a language other than English, as an alternative to interpreters. The proposal will support the normative value of offering Spanish-language judicial proceedings in Hidalgo County, Texas, using frameworks endorsed by legal scholars Denise Gilman and Christina Rodriguez. The paper will first evaluate the current state of language access in Hidalgo County and develop a picture of the legal regime surrounding language access in Hidalgo County’s courts. From there, it will look at alternative approaches to language access in other legal regimes. Finally, it will formulate a proposal for the design and implementation of Spanish-language proceedings in Hidalgo County. Two distinct research components contribute to this study: the first involved a comprehensive review and content analysis of state and federal law that is applicable to the state courts in Hidalgo County, and which are relevant to the language access services the courts offer; the second involved original primary research, and was intended to reveal both what language access in Hidalgo County does look like, and what it could look like. The latter used qualitative interviews with lawyers, judges, and court interpreters in Hidalgo County. One of the project’s goals is to illuminate potential areas of improvement to the current language access practices in Hidalgo County, as well as the laws shaping these practices. Maybe along the way the study will offer new perspectives on meaningful access to justice, the possibility of finding novel solutions to social problems in local contexts, and institutional responses to increasing multiculturalism in the United States.