Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Judge Approves Settlement of Class Action as Officials Agree to Improve Disabled Access to Local Courts
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
U.S. District Judge Dickran M. Tevrizian yesterday approved the final settlement of a class action, requiring Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles Superior Court to take specific steps to make local courthouse facilities more accessible to the disabled.
The settlement represents a final resolution of claims brought four years ago by four disabled individuals, including Santa Monica attorney David G. Geffen, who is paralyzed as a result of a spinal cord injury and litigates disability, employment, and personal injury cases.
The settlement addresses access to courthouses themselves, as well as restrooms, courtrooms, and elevators. A number of changes have already been implemented as a result of a partial settlement of the case that was reached at a 2003 settlement conference.
With respect to restrooms, the court and county agreed that each existing courthouse will have at least one pair of public restrooms meeting federal accessibility standards under the Americans With Disabilities Act for each four floors.
The agreement also requires some modifications of jury assembly and jury deliberations room restrooms, and establishes a schedule for compliance. At the Stanley Mosk courthouse, for example, the second floor east and seventh floor restrooms must be brought into compliance within 30 months.
The court will also be required to train employees to be sensitive to the needs of disabled persons for adequate time to reach and use accessible restrooms.
The agreement also includes provisions regarding witness facilities. Where a witness is unable to access the existing witness box, arrangements will be made to have the witness testify in full view of the judge and jury using a microphone that does not have to be held.
Witnesses will also be allowed, as per rules of court, to request that a proceeding be moved to a courtroom with an accessible witness stand. The court may, however, deny the request if no such courtroom is available or if there would be an undue burden on the court.
The plaintiffs were represented by attorneys Eve L. Hill, Paula D. Pearlman, and Johanna Pirko of the Disability Rights Legal Center at Loyola Law School, formerly the Western Law Center for Disability Rights; Dan Stormer and C. Virginia Keeny of Hadsell & Stormer in Pasadena; Nora Quinn, whose offices are in Pasadena; and ACLU lawyers Mark Rosenbaum and Peter Eliasberg.
The county was represented by Principal Deputy County Counsel Kathleen Dougherty Felice and Brenton F. Goodrich and Ira A. Weinreb of Parker, Milliken, Clark, OíHara & Samuelian. The courtís attorneys were Gregory F. Hurley and Mike Drury of the Costa Mesa office of Greenberg Traurig.
The case is Miles v. County of Los Angeles, 02-3932.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company