Eliminating Barriers to Justice II: Why and How to Ensure Language Access for Limited English Proficient and Deaf/Hard of Hearing Litigants

Conference highlights included a welcome by the Hon. Hugh Thompson, former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia, a keynote from Justice Keith Blackwell, Chair, Supreme Court of Georgia Commission on Interpreters, as well as the following sessions:

  • Making Language Access a Reality for Georgia Courts ~ A Stakeholders Panel featuring the Hon. Melodie Clayton, Judge, Cobb County State Court/ COI Member (ret.); Hon. Rizza Palmares O’Connor, Chief Judge, Toombs County Magistrate Court; Hon. Norman Cuadra, Judge, Suwanee and Chamblee Municipal Courts; Ms. Konstantina Vagenas, Director & Chief Counsel of Access-To-Justice Initiatives, National Center for State Courts; Mr. Shinji Morokuma, Immediate Past Program Director, GA Judicial Council/AOC Office of Certification and Licensing; Mr. Matthew Sorensen, Court Administrator, Clayton County Judicial Circuit. The panel addressed the significance of language barriers as an access to justice issue and the ongoing efforts of various statewide entities and organizations to combat it.


  • Language Access Nuts & Bolts 101: Legal Obligations and Practical Considerations – This panel outlined Language Access Advocacy in Georgia to date and the challenges faced when Georgia stakeholders found themselves hindered in providing effective access to justice to LEP/DHH individuals due to the inability to rely exclusively on federal precedent and the support discovered within Georgia’s legal establishment to combat language barriers as an access to justice issue and addressed sample strategies for implementing such. The panel focused on educating judges and clerks on the need for qualified interpreters to ensure meaningful access to the justice system by identifying the role of interpreters, the different levels of interpreter qualifications, and how to determined when an interpreter is needed.


  • Language Access and Professionalism – This panel evaluated the experiences of individual stakeholders when representing and/or assisting LEP/DHH litigants, highlighted principles of professionalism that serve to guide the conduct of access to justice stakeholders, and identified how heightened professionalism can enable LEP/DHH litigants to receive full access to the legal system.


  • Language Access for Litigants – From the Interpreter’s Perspective – This panel identified common words often misused or misinterpreted as an opening to address the duty to use interpreters responsibly, especially within the contexts of the attorney-client privilege, potential clients, and the unauthorized practice of the law.

Session 2 Language Access & Professionalism