In an effort to protect victims of domestic violence and ensure fair due process for all New Jersey residents, the Assembly Appropriations Committee advanced a bill Thursday, previously passed by the Women and Children Committee, which would require certain domestic violence orders to be issued in English and other additional languages.
Assemblywoman Shanique Speight (D-Essex) introduced the legislation (A-5860) after witnessing as an officer the barriers non-English speakers can face in the court system. She and fellow sponsors Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Essex) and Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) released the following joint statement upon the bill’s passage:
“It’s important in any court case – but especially one related to charges as serious as domestic violence – that both the victim and defendant understand any legal action involving them.
“Police officers are required to give victims of domestic violence a notice of their rights, including the right to press charges and file a restraining order against their abuser. However, if one or both of the people involved in that litigation do not speak English, they will be unable to comprehend any formal documents given to them.
“All parties need to be able to evaluate and review the details of their case.
“Without court orders they can actually read, victims will not understand how to legally defend themselves while defendants will not comprehend the stipulations of their restraining orders. Anyone who does not understand the details of an order can unintentionally violate it, creating further consequences for all involved that could easily have been avoided.
“We must recognize that people of all backgrounds have made a home in New Jersey. At least 155 different languages are spoken throughout the state and more than 12 percent of our residents are unable to speak English with a high level of proficiency.
“While this legislation will help level the playing field by providing access to certain legal documents in other languages, we must be mindful of what inclusivity will look like at every level of government. The ultimate goal is to expand language access throughout the entire court system.
“Justice cannot be served unless it is accessible to all residents, including those who do not speak English.”