- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii’s court system has improved the way it serves people with limited English skills, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The department announced Tuesday it is closing its review of the Hawaii Judiciary’s Language Access Program. The department intervened in 2012 and provided assistance after receiving complaints about language assistance services provided by Hawaii’s state courts.

Hawaii has made improvements including changing the way interpreters are assigned and launching informational webpages in each of the 14 most commonly used languages that explain the right to an interpreter at no cost, the department said.

Hawaii State Judiciary spokeswoman Tammy Mori said that during the 2013 fiscal year, the courts provided interpreter services for more than 8,000 proceedings. “We’re fourth in the country for the amount of folks who speak English as a second language,” she said. “We’re geographically isolated. On the mainland, sometimes courts can call upon other states when there’s a rare language … but that’s not feasible over here.”

Finding qualified interpreters continues to be a challenge for the Judiciary, Mori said.

The top five languages requested in Hawaii’s courts are Chuukese, Ilokano, Korean, Marshallese and Spanish, she said.

In addition to the improvements noted by the Justice Department, Hawaii’s state courts have also instituted an “international day,” where interpreters are flown from Honolulu to neighbor islands on a certain day of the month when proceedings are assigned for those who require interpreters, Mori said.

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Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at https://www.twitter.com/JenHapa .


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