Eliminating Barriers to Justice: Addressing Ethical Obligations, Cultural Competency, and Best Practices for Ensuring Meaningful Language Access in Georgia Courts


Conference Highlights included a compelling video from language access advocates across the state, entitled “Voices from the Field: Moving to be Heard” followed by a keynote address from the then Immediate Past Chair of the Supreme Court of Georgia Commission on Interpreters, Justice Harold Melton,  entitled “Our Unique Challenge.” Attendees also benefited from several presentations including:

  • Legal Underpinnings for Language Access” ~ A Stakeholders Panel Discussion featuring the Hon. Christopher J. McFadden, Judge, Georgia Court of Appeals; Ms. Yolanda Lewis, District Court Administrator, Fulton County Superior Court; Hon. Dax Lopez, Judge, DeKalb County State Court; Ms. Marla S. Moore, Director, Administrative Office of the Courts of Georgia; Hon. Tilman E. Self, III, (former) Chief Judge, Bibb County Superior Court; Hon. Gail S. Tusan, (former) Chief Judge, Fulton County Superior Court. The panel addressed the February 2013 Georgia Bar Journal article, entitled “Working with an Interpreter,” regarding providing effective communication and ensuring Limited English Proficient (LEP) clients have meaningful access to justice.


  • Cultural Competency 101 – The panel addressed cultural competency by first defining culture and the four key components of cultural competency before analogizing the courtroom as a global place. Within this framework, the panel spoke to the issue regarding lack of awareness and education foreign-born litigants may have surrounding court processes and how the judicial system, as gatekeeper, can navigate potential language barriers to ensure access to justice by minimizing cultural bias and achieving fairness.


  • Best Practices for Working with Interpreters: From Client Intake to the Bench – This panel outlined tips to ensure the effective use of an interpreter, which included preparing the client for the usage of a court interpreter, styles or types of interpretation and which ones to avoid, the significance of requesting an interpreter in advance, acknowledging situations where more than one interpreter would be beneficial, and the importance of document translation for the client and the court. Additionally, this panel addressed the necessary language to include when attorneys draft motions requesting an interpreter and how such language varies between forums.


  • Ethical Considerations for Attorneys When Representing Limited English Proficient and Deaf/Hard of Hearing Clients – This panel addressed various ethical obligations attorneys should take into consideration when representing LEP/DHH clients in Georgia. Specifically outlined were the legal requirements for language access as provided by the American Disabilities Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Executive Order 13166, and Lau v. Nichols as well as the applicable code sections within the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, the ABA Standards for Language Access in Court, and the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct and how to provide effective advocacy on the issues and not on the language barriers which exist.