U.S. Department of Justice Files Amicus Brief in ADA Lawsuit Against CTA By People with Disabilities

Plaintiffs Argue for Action Not Words as Case Nears Trial



Apr 18, 2001, 01:00 ET from Equip for Equality

    CHICAGO, April 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Because of potential national
 ramifications, the United States Department of Justice yesterday filed an
 amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in U.S. District Court in a lawsuit
 against the Chicago Transit Authority filed Feb. 8, 2000.  The amicus brief
 was filed in support of the plaintiffs, Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago
 and nine individuals with disabilities.  The lawsuit seeks to end the CTA's
 longstanding failure to provide equal access to public buses and trains for
 people with disabilities, in violation of Title II of the Americans with
 Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
     In February, the CTA filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing, in part,
 that it has no responsibility for its employees' unlawful conduct.  Although
 the CTA has policies requiring employees to provide access to riders with
 disabilities, it is not taking responsibility for ensuring that those policies
 are actually carried out.  If the Court denies the CTA's Motion, the case will
 proceed to trial.
     "We are very pleased that the federal government has taken an active role
 in this important ADA litigation supporting our position that the CTA is
 accountable for providing equal access to public transportation in Chicago for
 all riders with disabilities," says Marca Bristo, President and CEO of Access
 Living, a nonprofit cross-disability organization, which is a center for
 independent living that works toward the full equality, inclusion and
 empowerment of all people with disabilities.  "Plaintiffs have suffered, both
 professionally and personally, at the hands of CTA when elevators are broken,
 when CTA employees fail to respond to requests for assistance, or when bus
 lifts are either broken or not deployed upon request."
     The Department of Justice is the federal agency with primary
 responsibility for enforcement of Title II of the ADA, including coordination
 of other federal agencies, such as the Department of Transportation, which
 oversees certain aspects of ADA implementation.
     "The CTA's position that it bears no responsibility when its employees
 violate the ADA is not only offensive to people with disabilities, but
 contrary to the law," says Barry Taylor, Legal Advocacy Director for Equip for
 Equality.  In its brief, the Department of Justice concurred with plaintiffs'
 assertion about CTA's responsibilities.
     Equip for Equality is a nonprofit organization designated by the Governor
 to administer the federal Protection and Advocacy System for people with
 physical and mental disabilities in Illinois.  Through its extensive
 self-advocacy program, it assists hundreds of individuals with disabilities
 and family members in cases involving ADA violations by public entities.  Its
 legal department becomes involved in cases that have the potential for
 system-wide reform such as the CTA action.
     "This case is about the CTA's failure to deliver on its duty to provide
 meaningful access to passengers with disabilities," says Karen Ward, Senior
 Counsel for Equip for Equality and one of the attorneys who prepared the
 response to the CTA's Motion for Summary Judgment.  "That failure is the very
 type of behavior that the Supreme Court has recognized as 'shameful' resulting
 in people with disabilities being 'shunted aside, hidden and ignored.'"
     The CTA's Motion for Summary Judgment is its second attempt to deny the
 plaintiffs their day in court.  Previously, on March 12, the U.S. District
 Court denied the CTA's Motion to Dismiss the complaint based on the premise
 that it should be considered an arm of the State and therefore, entitled to
 immunity under the 11th Amendment.  In its decision, the Court rejected the
 CTA's attempt to benefit from the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in
 Garrett v. University of Alabama, which held that states are immune from suits
 for damages in federal court under Title I of the ADA.
     The legal team representing plaintiffs includes Barry C. Taylor,
 Karen I. Ward, Laura J. Miller and John W. Whitcomb from Equip for Equality;
 Lou Aurichio from Butler, Rubin, Saltarelli & Boyd; and private attorney
 Kathleen C. Yannias.
     For further information, contact Barry Taylor at 312-341-0022, ext. 317 or
 TTY, 800-610-2779.
 
 

SOURCE Equip for Equality
    CHICAGO, April 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Because of potential national
 ramifications, the United States Department of Justice yesterday filed an
 amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in U.S. District Court in a lawsuit
 against the Chicago Transit Authority filed Feb. 8, 2000.  The amicus brief
 was filed in support of the plaintiffs, Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago
 and nine individuals with disabilities.  The lawsuit seeks to end the CTA's
 longstanding failure to provide equal access to public buses and trains for
 people with disabilities, in violation of Title II of the Americans with
 Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
     In February, the CTA filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing, in part,
 that it has no responsibility for its employees' unlawful conduct.  Although
 the CTA has policies requiring employees to provide access to riders with
 disabilities, it is not taking responsibility for ensuring that those policies
 are actually carried out.  If the Court denies the CTA's Motion, the case will
 proceed to trial.
     "We are very pleased that the federal government has taken an active role
 in this important ADA litigation supporting our position that the CTA is
 accountable for providing equal access to public transportation in Chicago for
 all riders with disabilities," says Marca Bristo, President and CEO of Access
 Living, a nonprofit cross-disability organization, which is a center for
 independent living that works toward the full equality, inclusion and
 empowerment of all people with disabilities.  "Plaintiffs have suffered, both
 professionally and personally, at the hands of CTA when elevators are broken,
 when CTA employees fail to respond to requests for assistance, or when bus
 lifts are either broken or not deployed upon request."
     The Department of Justice is the federal agency with primary
 responsibility for enforcement of Title II of the ADA, including coordination
 of other federal agencies, such as the Department of Transportation, which
 oversees certain aspects of ADA implementation.
     "The CTA's position that it bears no responsibility when its employees
 violate the ADA is not only offensive to people with disabilities, but
 contrary to the law," says Barry Taylor, Legal Advocacy Director for Equip for
 Equality.  In its brief, the Department of Justice concurred with plaintiffs'
 assertion about CTA's responsibilities.
     Equip for Equality is a nonprofit organization designated by the Governor
 to administer the federal Protection and Advocacy System for people with
 physical and mental disabilities in Illinois.  Through its extensive
 self-advocacy program, it assists hundreds of individuals with disabilities
 and family members in cases involving ADA violations by public entities.  Its
 legal department becomes involved in cases that have the potential for
 system-wide reform such as the CTA action.
     "This case is about the CTA's failure to deliver on its duty to provide
 meaningful access to passengers with disabilities," says Karen Ward, Senior
 Counsel for Equip for Equality and one of the attorneys who prepared the
 response to the CTA's Motion for Summary Judgment.  "That failure is the very
 type of behavior that the Supreme Court has recognized as 'shameful' resulting
 in people with disabilities being 'shunted aside, hidden and ignored.'"
     The CTA's Motion for Summary Judgment is its second attempt to deny the
 plaintiffs their day in court.  Previously, on March 12, the U.S. District
 Court denied the CTA's Motion to Dismiss the complaint based on the premise
 that it should be considered an arm of the State and therefore, entitled to
 immunity under the 11th Amendment.  In its decision, the Court rejected the
 CTA's attempt to benefit from the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in
 Garrett v. University of Alabama, which held that states are immune from suits
 for damages in federal court under Title I of the ADA.
     The legal team representing plaintiffs includes Barry C. Taylor,
 Karen I. Ward, Laura J. Miller and John W. Whitcomb from Equip for Equality;
 Lou Aurichio from Butler, Rubin, Saltarelli & Boyd; and private attorney
 Kathleen C. Yannias.
     For further information, contact Barry Taylor at 312-341-0022, ext. 317 or
 TTY, 800-610-2779.
 
 SOURCE  Equip for Equality