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Thread: Supreme Court Backs Disabled Georgia Inmate

  1. #1

    Supreme Court Backs Disabled Georgia Inmate

    Very slightly edited to meet copyright requirements.

    New York Times
    January 10, 2006

    Supreme Court Backs Disabled Georgia Inmate

    By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- States can sometimes be sued for damages by disabled
    inmates, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in resolving the first clash over
    states' rights under Chief Justice John Roberts.

    The court said Georgia inmate Tony Goodman could use a federal disabilities
    law to sue, claiming that prison officials did not accommodate his
    disability. Goodman contends he was kept for more than 23 hours a day in a
    cell so narrow he could not turn his wheelchair.

    His case had become the latest test of the scope of the 1990 Americans With
    Disabilities Act, a law meant to ensure equal treatment for the disabled in
    many areas of life.

    The Supreme Court ruled previously that people in state prisons are
    protected by the law, and the follow-up case asked whether individual
    prisoners have recourse in the courts.

    Georgia argued that states should be immune from inmate lawsuits brought
    under the law.

    Not a single justice agreed Tuesday.

    Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the court, said that states could be
    sued under ADA for constitutional rights violations. The court put off
    deciding whether state corrections departments can face suits for general
    violations of the law, a more significant and contentious issue.

    ''This tells states they don't have free rein. They don't have carte
    blanche,'' said Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown University civil rights law
    professor. ''If we are looking for some signal of what a Roberts' court
    might be, this is a very solid, careful approach.''

    A dozen states had urged the court to bar general suits by inmates under the
    disabilities law. Their lawyer, Gene Schaerr of Washington, said that
    justices likely ''recognized Sandra Day O'Connor has announced her
    resignation and they'd rather wait until they have a full court in place
    until they address that issue head on -- I think that's very good news for
    the states.''

    The Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting this week on President Bush's
    nomination of Samuel Alito to replace O'Connor. She will leave the court as
    soon as her successor is confirmed.

    O'Connor was the deciding vote the last time justices ruled on the 1990 law,
    siding with the four more liberal court members in a 2004 decision which
    held that states could be sued for damages for not providing the disabled
    access to courts.

    Goodman had been supported in the latest case by the Bush administration,
    which argued that there was a history of mistreatment of disabled prisoners
    when Congress passed the law.

    The court could have used the case to shield states from federal government
    interference, something that had been a hallmark of the court under the late
    Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.
    ...

    ''This is another step forward moving away from states' rights and
    recognizing Congress' power to protect certain groups who are discriminated
    against,'' said John Brittain, chief counsel of the Lawyers' Committee for
    Civil Rights Under Law.

    Georgia prison officials had described Goodman as a chronic lawsuit filer
    who contested things like the temperature and lighting in his cell. He is in
    prison for drug possession and aggravated assault.

    ''We're pleased that in today's decision the court limited liability solely
    to instances where there is an actual constitutional violation,'' said Russ
    Willard, a spokesman for the Georgia attorney general.

    The cases are United States v. Georgia, 04-1203, and Goodman v. Georgia,
    04-1236.
    "Who are all these strange ghosts rooted to the silly little adventure of earth with me?"--Jack Kerouac

  2. #2
    Banned Faye's Avatar
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    The court could have used the case to shield states from federal government
    interference, something that had been a hallmark of the court under the late
    Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.
    MrSoul, THANKS for posting.

    Could be the time is right for a lawsuit against Gwinnett County School System GA for not providing a single ramp to the 1700 classrooms they have in trailers. ( Florida has been good about complying, with every classroom in a trailer having a ramp).

    We were afraid that bringing suit would have given the Supreme court an opportunity to undermine the ADA as was fully expected in this case too.
    We did not want to jeopardize the ADA.
    Last edited by Faye; 01-13-2006 at 08:37 PM.

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    Kerr, Keirstead, McDonald, Stice and Jun Yan courageously work on ESCR to Cure SCI.

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  3. #3
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    Ever since I got paralyzed, I figured the law would not bother me. But after reading many stories of disabled people getting locked up, I guess I better watch myself. Not going to spare me because of my disability.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Hunker's Avatar
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    Nice post but they will not take your chair in jail so you do not use your spokes as a weapon. You will drag your legs underneath your chair because no foot rests. Nice post but like the ADA does no backbone.

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