Justice Department closes review of South Dakota judicial system over language accessibility

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South Dakota (file image)(MGN Online)
Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 11:24 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Federal officials say they are closing a civil rights review of the South Dakota Unified Judicial System over access to court programs for people with limited English proficiency.

The Justice Department on Thursday said the state’s court system has taken the necessary measures to improve language accessibility.

The review was initiated in March of 2020 when the Justice Department received a complaint alleging that the Second Judicial Circuit discriminated against people with limited English proficiency based on their national origin. Officials say this could potentially violate Title VI of the Civil Rights of Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on a number of levels, including nation of origin.

According to a release from the Justice Department, the state’s Unified Judicial System quickly took action after the complaint. The state formalized a court language access program, and also required all courts to provide free interpreter services. In addition, new training was made available for judges and court staff.

“Language should never stand as a barrier for people seeking access to justice and access to courts in our country,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We recognize the South Dakota Unified Judicial System’s improvements which have helped substantially improve access to state courts for people who are limited English proficient.”

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