A national report released Wednesday ranked Hawaii’s state court system No. 1 in the country for providing support to those with limited English proficiency.
The ranking came after the U.S. Department of Justice last year closed its review of Hawaii’s language access program, saying the Hawaii judiciary made improvements that included changing the way interpreters are assigned and launching informational web pages in each of the 14 most commonly used languages that explain the right to an interpreter at no cost.
The judiciary offers court interpreters in about 45 different languages, but officials say they still struggle with finding enough qualified interpreters to satisfy the demand.
According to the judiciary, about 6,800 cases required interpreting services in 2008, and that figured jumped to nearly 7,700 in 2012. There were nearly 9,600 interpreted proceedings in 2014, the most recent year complete data are available.
“We are currently working on translating court forms from English into the 12 to 14 languages most frequently encountered in our state courts,” Judiciary Administrative Director Rodney Maile said in a statement.
Hawaii ensures court interpreters are certified and is one of only three states that require interpreters at self-help centers, according to the findings of the Justice Index by the National Center for Access to Justice at Cardozo Law School in New York City.
The rankings also placed Hawaii third for overall access to justice. The report measures accessibility in four categories: attorney access for low-income litigants; support for litigants representing themselves without an attorney; language access support and help for those with disabilities.
The center notes that the research behind the index has its limits.
“Individual courts or counties may be struggling despite well-structured rules and programs at the state level,” the center’s website says. “And individual courts or counties may be outperforming their statewide programs through their own efforts, creativity and dedication.”