Disabilities Act faces Supreme Court test
The decision on whether the law requires buildings to be handicap-accessible will affect Iowa's older buildings.
By LYNN OKAMOTO
Register Staff Writer
Iowa courthouses, bus lines, parks and other government services all stand to be affected by an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether states can be sued for failing to make accommodations for people with disabilities.
"The implications of the case far exceed courtrooms," said Peter Blanck, director of the University of Iowa Law, Health Policy and Disability Center. "It goes to accessibility to many government services."
The Supreme Court agreed last month to hear Tennessee vs. Lane, a case that stemmed from a paraplegic man who crawled up two flights of steps to reach a hearing in a courthouse that lacked an elevator. A decision in the case will come next year.
Iowa, which has many century-old buildings, has had its own struggle with making public buildings accessible to the disabled as required by the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
Dan Hoffman, 57, of Fairfield remembers the embarrassment he felt in 1990 when he had to crawl up 23 steps of a county office building in Keosauqua to attend meetings of the Van Buren County supervisors. Hoffman has muscular dystrophy.
The county's adjacent 1840 courtroom, the oldest still being used in Iowa, is on the second floor and remains inaccessible.
"That particular building, with it being so old, it wasn't advisable to put an elevator in it," said Van Buren County Auditor Jon Finney. "It would destroy the interior or exterior in historical significance."
Finney said the county plans to make its court services accessible to people with disabilities this fall by renovating a ground-floor building addition into a courtroom.
But Hoffman said officials usually don't make changes unless someone forces the issue. He knows. His complaints over the years have led to ramps or elevators being installed at a county office building, a post office and a high school.
"I feel like I've done some good in some of these areas," he said. "We've still got a long ways to go."
Iowa advocates for the disabled are hailing the Supreme Court's decision to hear the Tennessee case as a major step that could have broad implications in Iowa.
"If we put some real teeth in the law and really enforce it, it will probably get better over time," Hoffman said.
Sylvia Piper, director of Iowa Protection and Advocacy, said the right to sue the state and collect damages is a matter of equity.
"Certainly, what is right for employers in the private sector should also apply to employers in the public sector," Piper said.
At issue is the scope of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which celebrates the 13th anniversary of its signing July 26.
Until now, enforcement of the law has been based on complaints filed and the main enforcement agency has been the U.S. Department of Justice.
States have argued that lawsuits should not be filed against them because the 11th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives them sovereign immunity, meaning no state can be sued in federal court without its consent.
In 2000, the Supreme Court sided with the state in Alabama vs. Garrett. It said Congress exceeded its authority with the Americans with Disabilities Act as it applies to states, and violated the Constitution. The ruling had the effect of denying people with disabilities the right to sue state agencies and collect damages.
But Blanck said the case currently before the Supreme Court has a different hook because it's based on due process, not on equal protection rights, guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.
That brings new hope to people like U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who was the chief sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"Senator Harkin believes that we had an extensive record of discrimination against people with disabilities when we wrote the ADA," said Allison Dobson, a Harkin spokeswoman. "Senator Harkin believes the Garrett decision got it wrong and certainly hopes they can get it right this time around."
<< ... the court's decision "an affront to the very foundation" of the U.S. Constitution.
"It also shows blatant disregard for the people of various states and the laws their representatives have lawfully enacted." ...
"Those members of the court who have so brazenly exercised illicit judicial authority should have to face the consequences of their actions which are violations of the Constitution, something they took an oath to uphold." ...
Justices Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor, Stephen Breyer, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens voted to strike down the Texas law and ... should be removed from the court as a result. >>
posted on 07/05/2003 9:04:22 PM PDT
by Brian Allen
( Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God - Thomas Jefferson)
Weap for the republic....it's not long for this world.
posted on 07/05/2003 9:05:33 PM PDT
(Soccer-Moms are the biggest threat to your freedoms and the republic !)
To: dighton; Catspaw; BlueLancer
posted on 07/05/2003 9:09:09 PM PDT
by Chancellor Palpatine
(insulting True Conservatives and disrupting their mental self abuse in two millennia)
According to this "party" and some freepers, the states have the right to tell us what to have for breaksaft, when to eat, when to go outside, what to name our kids, and on and on. When and how did people get the idea that the constitution's purpose was to list all human rights. This type of think is dangerous and opens us up to the worst kind of totalitarianism. Let Freedom Ring!
posted on 07/05/2003 9:09:30 PM PDT
Impeachment is a political process not a legal process.
Just another thing that Clinton did in his attempt to destroy America.
Seems to me that a judgment totally contrary to the Constitution is grounds for impeachment. This judgement was not based on the constitution at all. Homosexuality was illegal in every state in America for over a hundread years. It is obvious constitutional to make it illegal. The signers were alive when these lawa exasted and none made any attempt to end them. Every society that has embrased homosexuality has never lasted move than another 60 years before serious decay most no longer existed after 60 years. The downfal fo the Roman empire started with making this legal. Besides the bioble teaches against it and we are a christian nation. So does nearly every other relegion.
They should be impeached as far as I am concerned as well.
I think I will change my registration just to make a point.
ALRIGHT! NOW TO GET THE CONSERVATIVE PARTIES (LIKE IN NY) AND ULTIMATELY THE GOP TO ADVANCE THIS -- this is a storm-wind blowing, and a breadth of fresh air. The White House had better get on board!
The conflict over Chase was CHILD's PLAY compared to the frontal assault of this Court on our basic right of self-governance and self-determination.
The third largest political party is the Green Party, sadly.
For a long time it was the Libertarians.
The Constitution Party is a distant fifth. However, their California affiliate, the American Independent Party, gets a huge number of people who think they're registering as an independent, so who really knows.
posted on 07/05/2003 10:08:11 PM PDT
(NO MULLIGANS- BILL SIMON, KEEP OUT OF THE RECALL ELECTION!)
So James Clymer has now decided that the Constitution Party is the official third party (even though its vote count puts it way way behind the Reform Party and Libertarian Party), and has decided to call himself "a legal expert". He is, in fact, a very ordinary lawyer in Lancaster, Penn., who has been rejected repeatedly
by the voters, especially those who knew who he was.
As for impeaching the Justices because of their decision in a hotly debated case (where there were real legal experts lined up on both sides), this a definite departure from the American pattern of an independent judiciary.
Clymer still has a lot to learn about the American Constitution.
posted on 07/06/2003 6:27:42 AM PDT
I agree with the Constitution party on this.
posted on 07/06/2003 7:06:19 AM PDT
by Captain Shady
(I could be wrong ,but I don't think so. Its a jungle out there.)
At that point, Baez said, the political party in power would have to decide whether or not it wanted to risk retaliation from the current minority party in the future.
"One party may be in power today and may be able to boot a justice from the other party," he said. "But then, of course, four years or eight years later, it may be reversed.
"It's a dangerous game," Baez concluded, "because what goes around comes around."
A good example of how the constitution is held hostage by the two party system!
posted on 07/06/2003 10:52:57 AM PDT
Do y'all remember which ex-President (when he was a congressman) called for the impeachment of Chief Justice Earl Warren?
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