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
CHICAGO (April 18, 2001) - 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 polices 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 or TTY (800) 610-2779.