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September 24, 2018

Dear Justice Corner:

Dear Justice Corner: 
Our court recently had a self-represented litigant submit a motion to which a document written in Spanish was attached.  What steps, if any, should we take to have the document translated or how should the court handle this matter?
-Judge Pleasetranslate

Dear Judge Pleasetranslate:

The Illinois Supreme Court Language Access Policy states that the "fair administration of justice requires that our state's courts be language accessible to all people, including those who are limited English proficient (LEP) or are deaf or hard of hearing." Moreover, the State Designations Act states that "the official language of the State of Illinois is English." 5 ILCS 460/20.  As such, all court filings in Illinois must be submitted in English. 

Judges and court personnel can provide information about court processes and resources, including translation services, to SRLs.  If a litigant submits a filing to the court in a language other than English, they must include a certified translation of that document.  The court patron is responsible for the costs associated with translating their documents.  If the litigant is incarcerated, however, the court is responsible for the associated translation fees.  An online directory of certified translators and interpreters is available through the American Translator Association (http://www.atanet.org).  The litigant should be informed that only a certified translation of the document will be accepted (i.e., they cannot have a friend or family member translate documents to submit to the court for them). 

As a reminder, many of the standardized forms available on the Illinois Courts website have been translated into six languages – Spanish, Polish, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Korean.  Those translated forms are for reference purposes only.  Litigants should complete and submit their form(s) in English to the court.   

The Access to Justice Commission and the AOIC Civil Justice Division oversees language access services for court patrons in our state courts.  If you have questions about translation or interpreter services, please contact Sophia Akbar, Language Access Services Specialist, at 312-793-2013 or sakbar@illinoiscourts.gov

As always, please email your questions, comments, concerns, suggestions, or stories about self-represented litigants to justicecorner@illinoiscourts.gov.

Justice Corner, Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice Court Guidance and Training Committee

  1. Chief Judge Michael J. Sullivan, McHenry County
  2. Presiding Judge Clarence M. Darrow, Rock Island County
  3. Presiding Judge Sharon M. Sullivan, Cook County
  4. Judge Jo Beth Weber, Jefferson County
  5. David Holtermann, Lawyers' Trust Fund, Chicago
  6. Joseph Dailing, Legal Aid Consultant, Rockford