Webinar for California Judiciary

In a new webinar from Spectrum Institute, attorney Thomas F. Coleman discusses the duties that judges and judicial staff in California have under state and federal disability nondiscrimination laws to ensure that people with cognitive disabilities have access to justice in judicial proceedings. Special emphasis is placed on probate conservatorship proceedings where the court is informed from the very start that a proposed conservatee may have serious mental disabilities that could hinder communications and prevent meaningful participation in the proceeding.

Coleman stresses that the court has a sua sponte responsibility to assess the ADA needs of such litigants and then to make modifications to court policies or provide reasonable accommodations to the litigant to maximize effective communication and meaningful participation.

Coleman also discusses the remedies that litigants have when their disability rights are violated by the court. These include writs and appeals to an appellate court, an administrative ADA complaint to the offending court, complaints to state civil rights enforcement agencies, and complaints to the United States Department of Justice.

During the webinar, Coleman takes the audience through 91 pages of reference materials, explaining how each document provides a piece of the ADA Judicial Compliance puzzle. Coleman verbally paints a picture of what access to justice would look like in these proceedings if a court were to fulfill its legal obligations.

Left for another webinar is HOW the judges and judicial staff would conduct an appropriate needs assessment and the types of supports and services that could be provided to ensure access to justice for a litigant and ADA compliance by a court.

At the end of the webinar, Coleman calls on the Judicial Council to bring court rules and educational materials into compliance with federal ADA laws. This can be done by clarifying that courts have ADA obligations even if no request is made. A sua sponte duty under the ADA exists when the disability is known or is obvious and the impairment to effective communication and meaningful participation can be reduced with appropriate modifications or accommodations.  [Sua Sponte. (sooh-uh-spahn-tay) Latin, of his or her or its own will; voluntarily. For example, when a court takes action on its own motion, rather than at the request of one of the parties, it is acting sua sponte. West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, Edition 2 (2008).]

For access to the guidebook of reference materials, click here. https://disabilityandguardianship.org/ada-references.pdf

To watch the 67-minute webinar, click here. https://youtu.be/HNVXHdzgjvI