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Serving Limited English Proficient (LEP) Battered Women: A National Survey of the Courts' Capacity to Provide Protection Orders

NCJ Number
Brenda K. Uekert Ph.D.; Tracy Peters M.A.; Wanda Romberger; Margaret Abraham Ph.D.; Susan Keilitz J.D.
Date Published
June 2006
209 pages

This federally supported study explored the capacity of Limited English Proficient (LEP) petitioners, specifically battered women to receive orders of protection.


Findings from the national survey demonstrate that courts have inadequate resources, including a shortage of interpreters. Courts have sparse informational or instructional material on protection orders in languages other than English. Court relationships with community-based organizations are limited. In addition, courts have poor data collection and information management systems that do not track requests for language assistance. Nationally, there is a gap in the needs of the Limited English Proficient (LEP) population seeking protection orders and the courts' capacity to serve this population of non-English speaking petitioners. The Nation's courts need to increase their institutional capacity to identify, develop, and implement an effective system so as to provide equal and "meaningful access" to protection orders and court services for the LEP population. Three sites were selected for further study based on the high quality of their court programs and community collaboration: Miami-Dade County, FL, King County, WA, and Washington, DC. The courts are increasingly serving a population with limited English proficiency. The 2000 Census of the United States indicates that 18 percent of the adult population speaks a language other than English. Despite Federal and State guidelines, most courts have not had the budget or resolve to create the capacity to provide language services. The need for language services may be felt most in the case of battered and stalked women who seek reprieve with protection orders. In 2003, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) awarded the National Center for State Courts a grant to study the capacity of LEP petitioners to receive orders of protection. The multi-method study design included a national survey of courts, an intensive survey of a select group of courts and community-based organizations within their jurisdictions and the assessment of selected sites that could serve as national models. References and attachments