Consistent with its commitment to access to justice for all, the U.S. Trustee Program provided 9,910 free telephone interpretation sessions for debtors with limited English proficiency in bankruptcy proceedings in Fiscal Year 2023, the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees announced today.
“Language interpretation services are essential to fulfilling the bankruptcy system’s promise of a fresh start for consumer debtors,” said Director Tara Twomey of the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees. “The U.S. Trustee Program is committed to ensuring that promise is accessible to all debtors no matter their English language proficiency.”
Debtors use the interpretation services during their meetings of creditors. Section 341 meetings, as they are known, are a critical part of the bankruptcy process at which debtors testify under oath in response to questions by trustees and creditors. The interpretation services help consumer debtors with limited English proficiency participate meaningfully in these meetings. Interpretation for more than 200 languages is available through a third-party vendor contracted with the U.S. Trustee Program. Historically, the top five languages of debtors who use the service have been Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Russian and Mandarin, while other top languages include Portuguese, Arabic, Cantonese, Armenian, Tagalog and Haitian Creole.
Before the USTP made language interpretation services available nationwide, interpretation at section 341 meetings occurred ad hoc, sometimes through the debtor’s relatives, friends or attorney. The U.S. Trustee Program and trustees were concerned about the objectivity and accuracy of those interpretations. Using third-party translation services for the debtor’s sworn testimony helps protect consumer debtors from fraud and abuse by opening access to independent, objective and professional interpretations from service providers free from conflicting interests.
Beyond offering free interpretation services, the U.S. Trustee Program also has posted on its website a Bankruptcy Information Sheet that is available in 17 languages and provides debtors with a helpful overview of the bankruptcy process. These and other language access initiatives reflect the Justice Department’s broader goal of providing meaningful access to programs and activities conducted or supported by federal agencies regardless of an individual’s English proficiency.
The U.S. Trustee Program is the component of the Justice Department whose mission is to promote the integrity and efficiency of the bankruptcy system for the benefit of all stakeholders – debtors, creditors and the public. The USTP consists of 21 regions with 89 field offices nationwide and an Executive Office in Washington, D.C. Learn more about the program at www.justice.gov/ust.