ChesterNewMatterSummer2017 - 25

From the Bench

Interpreters for the following languages are most
requested in Pennsylvania's 60 judicial districts:

By Hon. Mark L. Tunnell

1. Spanish
2. American Sign Language
3. Mandarin Chinese
4. Russian
5. Vietnamese
6. Arabic
7. Korean
8. Bosnian
9. Serbian
10. Croatian
Chester County is one of 14 counties in the Commonwealth
with a population that is more than 10 percent limited English
proficient (LEP). In Chester County, 12.1% of the population
is limited English proficient; 5.5% of the Chester County
population speaks Spanish, while 6.6% speak another language
other than English. 8.6% of Pennsylvania's population is deaf
or hearing impaired.
In order to provide guidance to each district to ensure
meaningful access to justice for LEP and deaf or hard-ofhearing individuals, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania
Courts (AOPC) worked with each of the 60 judicial districts in
Pennsylvania to create their own language access plans, based
on individual assessment of the needs of each district. These
plans went into effect on March 1, 2015.
Although these initial language access plans were a great
first step, it became clear that a more comprehensive statewide
plan was required in order for Pennsylvania to continue to
receive federal funding for its courts through the United States
Department of Justice. The federal requirements for funding
recipients, set forth in the "Guidance to the Federal Financial
Assistance Recipients," provide that state courts must, with
respect to LEP parties:



he gavel in question is undoubtedly associated with the
Historic Courthouse in West Chester. It has been in the
possession of the Oakes family for many years. The late Jean
Oakes who, many will recall, was long associated with Chester
County Hospital, bequeathed it to her nephew, Stephen Oakes,
who has owned it for two years now. Stephen, or "Bub," as
he is better known, is a County employee in the Facilities
Maintenance Department.
On the gavel is the legend
"Court House" and the date
"1850." There was at that time
but one courtroom in the then
brand new courthouse, and but
one common pleas judge, the
Honorable Henry Chapman
(1848-1851). This makes the
gavel 167 years old, pre-dating
the Civil War.

* Provide qualified interpreter assistance in any judicial
proceeding involving LEP parties in interest and witnesses;
* Take reasonable steps to ensure that LEP court users are
given meaningful access to court programs, services, and
information; and
* Provide this access free of charge.
In order to ensure compliance with the federal guidelines,
the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has undertaken a review
of language access practices across the Commonwealth
through its appointment of a Language Access Advisory Group
(LAAG). LAAG is composed of judges, court administrators,
interpreters, attorneys and elected government officials. Over
the course of 18 months, LAAG developed a plan to improve
and ensure access to justice for LEP and deaf and hard-of-

Jean Oakes acquired the gavel,
along with antique bric-a-brac,
from her father, Frank Oakes.
Frank, Bub's grandfather, was a tipstaff at the courthouse,
and his brother, Ira (Bub's great-uncle), was a County

Judge Henry Chapman

The gavel's provenance then is reasonably certain, and it is a
marvel that such an artifact has surfaced.

Continued on page 26
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