from the chair
I am honored to bring you this edition of the Commission’s eNewsletter addressing an attorney’s ethical and legal duties to ensure that their client is able to understand them and that they are able to understand their clients. Quite simply, communication is the backbone of our work as attorneys and as judges. Our offices and the services we provide are wholly inaccessible to some of the most vulnerable victims of sexual and domestic violence if we don’t integrate access based upon language, culture and disability. It may be easy to agree with that last statement, but it is often much harder to imagine how to achieve it. This eNewsletter is intended to provide you with some tangible, practical advice that we hope that you can use in your daily practice representing survivors and in your language access development in your organizations and communities.
Last year, the ABA Commission on Domestic Violence embarked on national trainings on the use and integration of interpreters in representing survivors of domestic violence, dating violence and sexual assault. With generous funding and support from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, the Commission hosted our first ever National Institute on the Use and Integration of Interpreters in May 2007 in Seattle, Washington and on June 5-6, 2008, the Commission will be hosting its second National Institute on the Integration of Interpreters in San Jose, California. In conjunction with these Institutes, we have worked with experts in the field to identify and develop resources for attorneys to develop their skills in identifying interpreter resources, working with interpreters in their practice and advocating for improved language access in their organizations, courts and communities through the use and integration of interpreters. Many of these materials may be found on our website at www.abanet.org/domviol, including the state and federal laws that require language access and the ABA standards of practice and model codes that address the use of interpreters in ensuring effective communication.
I am thrilled that two experts graciously agreed to provide articles for this eNewsletter. First, Susun Kim, Managing Attorney, Contra Costa Regional Office, Bay Area Legal Aid in Richmond, California. In her article, Working with Deaf Survivors of Domestic Violence, Ms. Kim explores her experiences representing survivors of domestic violence who are Deaf, providing extremely helpful advice and strategies to ensure effective communication and representation for Deaf survivors. Then, Gillian Dutton, Senior Attorney and Director of the Refugee and Immigrant Advocacy Project, Northwest Justice Project, Seattle, Washington, provides invaluable information about how her organization has developed effective policies and procedures to ensure language access for their clients, including the integration of interpreters. Ms. Dutton has also provided a copy of the Northwest Justice Project’s Language Access Policy which may be found on the Commission’s website at www.abanet.org/domviol.
As always, the Commission welcomes information from you regarding resources or promising practices. Our heartfelt thanks to all of you for your work on behalf of survivors.
The Honorable Pamila Brown
Chair, ABA Commission on Domestic Violence