American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreters
Individuals whose primary language is ASL will be provided with an ASL interpreter for court proceedings.
Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or late-deafened, or who require special devices or services to communicate in court due to a hearing disability, are considered to be LEP individuals and will be provided with reasonable accommodations.
The Judicial Branch will make appropriate accommodations for individuals with hearing loss, including providing auxiliary aids and services, to ensure effective communication and participation. Accommodations are provided at no cost to individuals with disabilities. In most cases, presentation of proof of disability is not required. For more information, see ADA Accessibility.
Individuals with hearing impairments are considered to have a disability for which reasonable accommodations will be provided. Accordingly, an individual may request an ASL interpreter or Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) service by submitting an Interpreter Request Form or Disability Accommodation Request Form.
Availability of an ASL Interpreter and/or Disability Accommodation
Judicial Branch-funded interpreter services or CART services are available for:
- Court proceedings; and;
- Consultation with an individual's court-assigned attorney outside of a court proceeding.
The Judicial Branch provides an ASL or other sign language interpreter for deaf or hard-of-hearing court observers (persons without a legal interest or formal involvement in a case).
Court proceedings include:
- Case management conferences;
- Court-ordered mediation;
- Dispositional conferences;
- Motion hearings;
- Commitment and competency hearings;
- Trial-related proceedings, including jury selection, trials, sentencing, appellate arguments, grand jury proceedings;
- Jury service for deaf, hard-of-hearing, or late-deafened individuals; and
- Any other court event or proceeding authorized by the presiding judge.
Consultation with a Party's Court-Assigned Attorney
When an event is not a court proceeding, the court will pay for the cost of interpreting services or if needed for effective consultation between the court-assigned attorney and client. See 5 M.R.S. § 48-A (3).
If the activity involving the deaf, hard-of-hearing , or late-deafened individual does not include consultation with a court-assigned attorney, the court is unable to pay for the cost of interpretation or CART services.
How to request an ASL Interpreter or Hearing Assistance
If you wish to request an ASL interpreter for a court proceeding, you may use any method described for requesting a spoken language interpreter.
In addition, if you are at a courthouse and need assistance, clerk's office staff will notify you if video remote interpretation (VRI) for ASL users is available. As of April 2019, VRI for ASL users is available at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta, the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor, the District Court in Lewiston, and the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland. For more information, see Video Remote ASL Interpreting at Clerks' Offices.
If you wish to request a disability accommodation, you may:
- Fill out a Disability Accommodation Request Form. Instructions on how to submit the form are included on the form.
Services Provided for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Late-Deafened Individuals
Video Remote Interpretation (VRI) for ASL users at Clerks' Offices
Communication between clerks' offices and deaf, hard-of-hearing, and late-deafened individuals often is done by exchanging written notes. Video Remote Interpretation for ASL users is available at the clerk's office in Portland, Bangor, Lewiston, and Augusta. At these locations, ASL users may watch an informational video in ASL that explains what services the clerks are able to provide.
When an ASL user requests a sign language interpreter, the clerk will contact an interpreter agency to request a legally-qualified interpreter. See 5 M.R.S. § 48-A. If no interpreter is available through an agency, the court may contract with a sign language interpreter certified in another state. In rare instances, the court may continue (postpone) the matter until a certified court interpreter is available.
Multiple ASL interpreters are assigned as needed to meet ASL user needs.
Assistive Listening Devices in the Courtroom
All courtrooms are equipped with infrared assistive listening systems. Hard-of-hearing court users do not need to submit an accommodation request for an assistive listening device ahead of time: simply request an assistive listening device from the clerk's office or from a judicial marshal upon arrival in court.
Personal Amplification Devices Outside the Courtroom
All Maine courthouses have personal amplification devices (sometimes referred to as "PockeTalkersTM") for use by hard-of-hearing court users in areas where assistive listening systems do not reach, such as hallways, jury deliberation rooms, mediation rooms, and clerk counters. PockeTalkers are also useful for hard-of-hearing attorneys or judicial officers during private sidebar conversations; for locations where the courtroom assistive listening systems are unavailable; and for hard-of-hearing jurors during jury deliberations. The advantage of PockeTalkers is that attorneys, court staff, and other individuals do not have to raise their voices to speak with a hard-of-hearing individual. Conversations occurring outside of any courtroomâ€”and beyond the reach of the integrated assistive listening systemsâ€”are assured some amount of privacy. Signs have been posted in all courthouses to notify the public of the availability of this resource.
CART service is available for deaf, hard-of-hearing, or late-deafened individuals. CART service provides for an instant speech-to-text translation of the spoken word into English text on a screen that the deaf, hard-of-hearing, or late-deafened court user can read. This service is provided during court proceedings. Because of the limited number of CART service providers in Maine, court proceedings requiring CART service may need to be continued (postponed) until a provider is available.
Other Reasonable Accommodations
The Judicial Branch may also provide any other types of reasonable accommodations for deaf, hard of hearing, or late-deafened individuals.
Communication Access Specialist
Telephone: (207) 822-0703
Maine Relay 711
Administrative Office of the Courts
P.O. Box 4820
Portland, ME 04112-4820