March | April 2017



Plans to Make Ohio Courts More Accessible

A new program in Ohio will help make the state’s courts more accessible to non-English speakers, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor outlined the new program during her annual State of the Judiciary Address at the Ohio Judicial Conference Sept. 12.  
The program will help state courts manage the 25,000 cases each year that require language translation by providing access to a free 24-hour hotline that will connect courts to interpreters able to translate in more 200 languages. The hotline service is designed to work as if the interpreter were in the courtroom communicating judicial instructions and attorneys’ questions.
State and federal laws require courts to ensure that parties in a case can understand court proceedings. Ohio courts already are able to accommodate non-English speakers with interpretive services for about 80 languages.
Other components of the program include a bench reference card offering guidance to judges on handling cases involving an interpreter, video training that explains the state’s language interpretation rule for judicial officials and a public information campaign to educate litigants about their rights to interpretive services.
“Ohio has been active for years in working hard to support the rights of people in our courts whose English ability is limited,” O’Connor said. “I am very excited about these new tools that we have been able to bring together for Ohio to ensure equal access in our courtrooms.”
North Dakota is saving a portion of its energy tax revenues for future needs, reported in August. The Legacy Fund has exceeded expectations in the two years since it was established; it’s grown to $1.3 billion as of August. Beginning June 2017, state lawmakers will be able to begin spending funds from the account for programs such as education.
State officials in Wisconsin hope a new campaign will help reduce heroin use. The Appleton Post-Crescent reported that heroin overdose deaths in the state rose 50 percent last year to 199. State officials say the increase of the drug’s use can be linked to its spread from inner cities to more suburban and rural areas. The public awareness campaign, called The Fly Effect, will include posters, a website, a television spot, radio ads and YouTube videos.
The fate of Indiana’s right-to-work law likely will be decided by the state Supreme Court after a state judge ruled the law unconstitutional. According to The Indianapolis Star, a Lake Superior Court judge ruled the law violates a provision in the state constitution banning the delivery of services “without just compensation.” Opponents argue the provision cited in the ruling applies only to individuals, not corporate bodies such as unions. The state attorney general’s office has indicated it will pursue an appeal with the state Supreme Court.   
The Nebraska State Treasurer’s office will make automated robocalls to alert residents of unclaimed property, The Lincoln Journal-Star reported in September. The treasurer’s office holds $125 million in unclaimed property for more than 350,000 current and former state residents and their heirs. The prerecorded messages will notify individuals of unclaimed property in their names, as well as provide information on how to file claims with the office’s Unclaimed Property Division.
Michigan state officials have pledged to reduce the number of forms businesses are required to complete for the state by half. The Detroit Free Press in September reported the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs plans to reduce paperwork and implement other aspects of the Reinventing Performance in Michigan initiative, a multiagency effort to make Michigan a top-10 business friendly state. The initiative aims to achieve such other goals as a 50 percent improvement in customer response time.