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Language Barriers in Court Cases

Maryland has an increasingly diverse population. This means that our court system needs to keep pace with the needs of our residents. By law, this includes providing interpreter services to those who cannot communicate effectively in English.

Here is an article from the Baltimore Sun about how courts in Baltimore City and Baltimore County are addressing this issue.

Because my personal injury practice is statewide, I have noticed that some courts deal with the issue of providing interpreters more effectively than others. I have found Montgomery County to be most effective and best able to provide interpreters in many languages on short notice. I think this is because Montgomery County has long been one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the state, so they have developed substantial experience serving a variety of non-English speaking populations. There are generally Spanish interpreters available on a few minutes’ notice, and there is an established procedure for quickly and simply requesting interpreters in most languages, who actually show up when they are supposed to be there.

It seems like the counties where this tends to be an issue are those where the populace has traditionally not included many non-English speakers. Baltimore City has been experiencing a tremendous rise in Spanish-speaking residents over the last decade, which has spilled into Baltimore County. So as the population in these jurisdictions changes, I expect their courts to become increasingly more efficient in providing interpreters.