Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: April 5, 2006

Seal of the Unified Court System
New York Courts Implement Action Plan to
Lessen Language Barriers for Non-English-Speaking Litigants

The New York State Unified Court System today unveiled its Action Plan on Court Interpreting Services - an ambitious program designed to most effectively meet the language needs of all litigants in a state where 30 percent of residents—nearly five million people—primarily speak a language other than English at home. In this state of unparalleled diversity, where 168 distinct languages are spoken and two million New Yorkers do not speak English at all, the court system has the challenge of providing interpreting services for over 100 languages, from Albanian to Yoruba. The Action Plan aims to improve the recruitment of interpreters, better assess interpreters’ qualifications and manage limited interpreter resources. Key initiatives in the plan include:

  • Statewide expansion of e-scheduling—an online program to help court managers quickly find and schedule qualified interpreters in any of over 100 languages around the state.
  • Statewide expansion of remote interpreting, in which interpreters provide services via video conference or telephone from a remote location, making effective interpreting possible when an interpreter cannot come to court—especially for less prevalent languages.
  • Increasing the pay rate for private (per diem) interpreters to $250 a day from $125, a rate that had not been revised since 1994 and is less than half the federal rate.
  • Offering half-day engagements for per diem interpreters with the compensation rate of $140 to expand the pool of available interpreters.
  • Reviewing per diem pay rates annually to avoid wage stagnation.
  • Improving testing and certification procedures to include examinations for additional languages.
  • Establishing training for new court-employed interpreters, as well as expanding training for judges and court personnel.
  • Creating a Senior Court Interpreter position for sign language to improve effective supervision and assignment of sign language interpreters.
  • Establishing a task force to help upstate justice courts, which are financed and administered by their local governments, to improve interpreting services for defendants.

Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman said, “Equal access to justice demands effective communication between our courts and the people they serve. Especially in so diverse a state as New York, this commitment must rise above hurdles that language differences and hearing impairments present. The initiatives unveiled in this Action Plan and the future ones that will follow in its wake, will help ensure that New York is second to none in providing all parties to our justice system with the complete and unfettered access to the courts that our Constitution and laws require.”

In New York, parties to criminal actions have legal rights to interpreting services, but New York’s courts have viewed this obligation more expansively, offering language assistance to as many parties and in the broadest range of civil and criminal proceedings as possible.
The Action Plan on Court Interpreting Services was developed with expertise from across New York’s court system, the National Center for State Courts and court systems throughout the nation. A written copy of the Action Plan, outlining the history of court interpreting services in New York and detailing the specific initiatives being implemented now or scheduled for the near future, can be obtained from the court system’s website at or by calling the Communications Office at 212-428-2500.

Web page updated: February 8, 2011