Fla. Woman Pushes For Civil Court Language Access

Part of the “Civil Gideon” issue is that some civil actions, like evictions and child custody or even immigration cases, are life-changing events similar to criminal cases, but they do not carry similar guarantees of legal representation. Now a Florida woman has filed a Justice Department complaint against her state for failing to supply an interpreter in custody cases.

The Orlando Sentinel newspaper reports that a Mount Dora woman earlier this month lodged an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice against courts across the state, alleging discrimination against those who speak limited English. Says the paper “… Kathy Card’s complaint charges Florida courts with flouting federal law by failing to offer comprehensive free interpretation and translation services. While interpretation is always on hand for criminal matters, many circuits deny it for certain types of civil cases. The 61-year-old Card, who retired to Lake after a career working on language access throughout the legal system, said the policies she observed in Florida’s courts dragged her back into advocacy.”

She said she founded a group in June called the Florida Language Access Coalition to pressure state courts to change their ways. Read her story here: Mount Dora woman files civil-rights complaint on court-interpreter policies