The Plaintiffs in Lane v. Tennessee announced today that they have entered into a full settlement agreement with the State of Tennessee. Plaintiffs are represented by attorney William J. Brown, a solo practitioner in Cleveland, Tennessee; attorneys Martha M. Lafferty and Gary D. Housepian of Tennessee Protection & Advocacy, Inc.; and, attorneys Linda Dardarian and Roberta Steele of the firm of Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen, and Dardarian, one of the nation’s leading civil rights class action law firms, located in Oakland, California.
In 1998, Plaintiffs George Lane and Beverly Jones filed a lawsuit alleging that the State of Tennessee and twenty-five Tennessee counties were in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to ensure that the State’s judicial program is accessible to individuals with disabilities. This settlement with the State of Tennessee came after a landmark victory at the United States Supreme Court in May 2004.
The State of Tennessee through the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) agreed to recommend to the Tennessee Supreme Court that an Americans with Disabilities Act Policy Regarding Access to Judicial Programs be implemented in the Tennessee Judicial Branch. On March 21, 2005, Tennessee Chief Justice Frank Drowota III signed an order implementing that policy. Although this lawsuit was limited to the issue of access to the judicial program by persons with mobility disabilities, the Tennessee Judicial Branch ADA policy is comprehensive and is intended to ensure that people with all types of disabilities have access to the State’s judicial program.
“This settlement vindicates the rights of persons with disabilities to have the same access to the State’s judicial program that all other citizens are afforded. We are confident that the development of this new State policy will make accessing the state’s judicial program easier for not only our plaintiffs in this case, but for other people with disabilities across the state as well. We hope that Tennessee will become a model for other states to follow,” said Martha M. Lafferty, Senior Attorney with Tennessee Protection & Advocacy, Inc.
In addition to reaching settlement with the State, Plaintiffs have reached settlement of all of their injunctive relief claims against the twenty-five County Defendants. In order to settle the Plaintiffs’ claims for injunctive relief, each defendant county has agreed to take actions to ensure that the State’s court program as conducted in their county will be accessible to people with mobility disabilities. A majority of the twenty-five Defendant Counties will be making physical modifications to their current courthouses or building new courthouses to ensure accessibility.
Tennessee Protection and Advocacy, Inc. is a federally funded non-profit agency charged with protecting the legal rights of people with disabilities in Tennessee. For more information regarding the Lane case visit www.TPAinc.org. People with disabilities seeking free legal advocacy services can contact Tennessee Protection & Advocacy, Inc. at 800-342-1660 (TTY 888.852.2852) or via e-mail to [email protected]