Flatlands

State OKs translators for domestic violence victims

April 6, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assemblymember Helene Weinstein says including translation services will remedy an injustice. Photo courtesy of Weinstein’s office

Weinstein pushed to have funding included in budget

Terrified domestic violence victims often feel even more frightened by the justice system if they do not speak English. But now they will be getting some extra help when they go to court seeking orders of protection.

Translation services will be made available to non-English speaking victims in court thanks to Assemblymember Helene Weinstein (D-Sheepshead Bay-Flatlands-Canarsie), who worked with state Sen. Marisol Alcántara (D-Manhattan) to put funding in the state budget to make it happen.

Specifically, New York state will now require the Office of Court Administration to develop a phased-in program to translate, in writing, all court orders of protection into the top 10 most frequently used languages in the courts.

The order is an important one, according to Weinstein, who said it will remedy any existing injustice in the treatment of domestic violence victims with limited English proficiency. 

“The ability of victims and defendants with limited English proficiency to understand the contents of orders of protection issued by the court is the most basic imperative for meaningful access to justice and to ensure victim safety. This measure is a significant step in that direction,” said Weinstein, Judiciary Committee chairperson.

“This policy will ensure that victims without strong English language skills will be able to read and understand the protection orders that keep them safe. It will also enable victims to prove to their communities and their abusers that they are protected by the force of law.  By translating government documents into the preferred languages of its people, New York state can show that it will always remain a diverse, welcoming state for people of all cultures,” Alcántara said.

During budget negotiations, Weinstein and Alcántara worked to persuade leaders in the Assembly and Senate to make addressing the situation a top priority.

Advocates for domestic violence victims praised the adoption of the measure. 

“In this time of heightened fear within our immigrant communities, it is vital that we do everything in our power to ensure that our justice system serves and is accessible to all of us. Ensuring that court orders of protection are interpreted and translated for limited English proficient parties is a great and much needed step in that direction,” said Christine Clarke, director of the Civil Rights Justice Initiative at Legal Services NYC.

Clarke is the co-author of “Interpreting Justice,” a recent report about language access in the New York courts.