ADA Judicial Compliance
Throughout the summer of 2021 the ADA Judicial Compliance Campaign analyzed the policies of California’s judicial branch entities and the practices of their officers, employees, and agents to determine if they are in conformity with state and federal disability nondiscrimination laws. Emphasis is placed on determining whether these policies and practices enhance access to justice for litigants with cognitive disabilities, especially in probate conservatorship proceedings. Entities include the Judicial Council, Supreme Court, all districts of the Court of Appeal, and all 58 superior courts. Officers include justices, judges, commissioners and judges pro tem. Employees include clerks, court investigators, ADA compliance officers, probate examiners, and all staff employed within the judicial branch. Federal disability nondiscrimination laws include the United States Constitution, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974, as well as regulations implementing those provisions. State nondiscrimination laws include the California Constitution, Government Code Section 11135, and Section 4502 of the Welfare and Institutions Code (Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act), as well as regulations implementing those statutory provisions.
Summer intern Maria Reyes Olmedo engaged in a variety of outreach activities. She sent ADA educational materials to the ADA coordinators in all 58 superior courts, all districts of the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court. Administrative records requests were sent to all of these courts to determine if they had adopted an ADA grievance procedure as required by federal law. A letter was sent to the presiding judges of all 58 superior courts alerting them to the ADA duties of the courts for obvious or known cognitive disabilities even if no request is made by a litigant. The letter informed them that a new webinar on judicial compliance with the ADA had been produced by our legal director and is available online. An administrative request was made to all superior courts for a copy of their policies regarding ADA accommodations, even without request, for litigants with known or obvious cognitive disabilities that may impair participation in the proceedings. Maria submitted updates to the legal director on all of these activities and the findings of her research.
Pending receipt of the necessary funding, the following activities will propel the ADA Judicial Compliance Campaign forward. A report with our findings and recommendations regarding the status of ADA judicial compliance will be prepared. It will be sent to the presiding judges of all superior court, the presiding justices of all divisions and districts of the Court of Appeal, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. It will also be shared with the California Judges Association. Copies will be sent to state and federal agencies that enforce laws prohibiting disability discrimination by public entities.
The legal director of Spectrum Institute will develop a webinar for appellate courts on the duties of judicial officers and staff to provide accommodations for litigants with known or obvious cognitive disabilities even without request.
Spectrum Institute will prepare a formal grievance to be filed with the Judicial Council. We will invite other disability rights organizations to join us in filing the grievance. It will focus on the limitations of Rule 1.100 of the California Rules of Court which sets for the procedures for courts to comply with disability accommodation requests. The Judicial Council has not promulgated a rule or judicial standards for what judges must do to provide accommodations, even without a request, for obvious or known cognitive disabilities that may preclude meaningful participation in court proceedings. Neither has the council produced training materials or programs on the subject of accommodations for known or obvious disabilities. Because local courts are relying on the Judicial Council for guidance on this subject, these courts do not have policies in place to deal with this situation. An information copy of the grievance will be sent to state and federal agencies that enforce laws prohibiting disability discrimination by public entities.
The Judicial Council’s ADA grievance procedure states that it “may be used by anyone who wishes to file a complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in the provision of services, activities, programs, or benefits by the Judicial Council.” (Judicial Council of California, Americans with Disabilities Act Grievance Procedure) The grievance procedure was established as a way of “ensuring uniform, prompt, and equitable resolution of all disability-related complaints or requests for disability accommodation in providing its services, programs, and activities to the public.” (Judicial Council Staff Report, July 13, 2017)
Spectrum Institute must raise $6,000 in order to complete the report, produce the webinar, and file the grievance. Please make a donation to support this important work. Donations are tax-deductible according to federal law. Send us a check or use your credit card online. After you make a donation, send us an email letting us know that your donation is earmarked for the ADA Judicial Compliance Campaign. For more information on how to donate, click here.