ACLU Sues Arkansas Judge for Denying Man in Wheelchair Access to Courthouse

Affiliate: ACLU of Arkansas
October 12, 1999 12:00 am

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ACLU of Arkansas
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LITTLE ROCK, AR — The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas today announced the filing of a class-action lawsuit against a county judge on behalf of a man who could not attend court proceedings because he is in a wheelchair.

ACLU of Arkansas volunteer attorney Luther Sutter, on behalf of Donald Roe, said that the defendant, Lonoke County Judge Carol Beavis, has “acted, failed to act, or refused to act” on behalf of disabled peoples wishing to access the courthouse and violated the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).

“It’s simple,” said ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Rita Sklar. “The courthouse, a place where the people engage in serious business, should be accessible to all of the people.”

On April 25, 1999, Mr. Roe was unable to attend court proceedings on an upper floor which is accessible only via several staircases; instead he waited six hours downstairs. The only accommodation made was an offer to be carried upstairs by several jail inmates, which he declined, and which is an unacceptable “accommodation” under the ADA.

The ACLU cited the following specific problems:

  • Lack of accessibility at the courthouse;
  • Lack of availability of accessible parking;
  • The defendant’s failure to provide program access;
  • Path-of-travel barriers to and/or within the courthouse facilities; and
  • Lack of required rest rooms at the courthouse.

In legal papers, the ACLU is asking Judge Beavis, to “develop, implement, and complete a proper transition plan within a reasonable time in accordance with the ADA?to provide program access and make those changes required under federal law at [the Courthouse].”

Today is not the first time the ACLU has taken legal action against a court for failing to provide access to people in wheelchairs. In a similar case last month, the ACLU of Georgia filed a lawsuit on behalf of a woman who was denied the right to serve on a jury because she is in a wheelchair. Read the ACLU’s news release at /news/1999/n091499e.html.

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