Martinez May 19 floor PhotoSPRINGFIELD — Senate Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) secured Senate passage this week of legislation allowing people who are not comfortable speaking or understanding English to be aided by an interpreter in the court room.

“Our state is diverse and language assistance is often necessary to ensure that court proceedings are as fair as possible,” Martinez said. “People who can’t hear or are not fluent in English should be able to know what is going on in the court room. Illinois should be a leader in making its court system accessible to all residents.”

Currently, courts in Illinois must appoint language interpreters in criminal cases but not in civil cases.

Senator Martinez is working to correct this disparity. Under her plan, an interpreter must be appointed in a civil case for any party or witness who is determined unable to understand or express the English language. For instance, someone who is deaf would have a sign language interpreter in the court room.

Civil cases involve conflicts between people or institutions such as businesses. Common civil cases include divorces, contract disputes and personal injury cases.

“Justice is blind. It also needs to be multilingual,” Martinez said.

House Bill 3620 now goes to the governor’s desk for signature.

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