California is an incredibly diverse state, with 43 percent of our over 38 million residents speaking a language other than English at home. While some of those Californians speak English well, millions are still learning and have trouble conducting any sort of complex business in English. This is an issue Greenlining has tackled from many angles, from getting Pacific Gas and Electric customer bills translated into Spanish and Chinese to pushing for translation of ballot initiative petitions. We’ve made some improvements, but we’re still not close to where we need to be.
One area where language access surely needs attention is our court system. If you think legalese is complicated, just imagine trying to make sense of it in a language you barely know!
Our fabulous legal fellow, Noemí Gallardo, is helping to solve that problem. She just coauthored a Hastings College of the Law/Administrative Office of the Courts report on what California’s courts are doing to be more accessible for “limited English proficient” residents and how those efforts can be expanded and strengthened. This follows another report Noemí coauthored on language issues, A Local Official’s Guide to Language Access Laws.
Be forewarned: These reports are not exactly beach reading. But it’s important stuff, and if the recommendations are implemented, they will help make our legal system a little fairer and more understandable to millions of Californians.