Judge: Court discriminated against deaf man by denying mediation interpreter

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A deaf Indianapolis man was discriminated against when a court denied providing him an interpreter during a mediation session ordered in his child custody case. A federal judge ruled Friday that Marion Superior Court’s decision to deny the interpreter in a court-funded mediation program violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Dustin King sued the courts in 2014, claiming that he was entitled to an American Sign Language interpreter when he participated in Marion County’s modest means assistance program in which litigants seek to mediate their family law disputes. King argued he was treated differently because of his disability, and Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana agreed Friday, entering partial summary judgment in favor of King.

“Marion Circuit Court does not dispute that it did not provide Mr. King with an ASL interpreter, but rather that it offered him a reasonable accommodation by waiving the mediation requirement,” Magnus-Stinson wrote in her 30-page order in Dustin King v. Marion Circuit Court, 1:14-cv-1092.

King sued Marion Circuit Court because it is the policymaker for the county’s courts.

“(H)owever, this is not an accommodation because it would exclude Mr. King from participating in the Modest Means Program, which he wanted to do. Other than excluding him from participation, Marion Circuit Court has designated no other evidence to demonstrate that it gave primary — or any — consideration to Mr. King’s need for an ASL interpreter or that it considered other reasonable accommodations to allow him to participate in mediation. Thus, Marion Circuit Court’s failure to seek any reasonable accommodation that would allow Mr. King to participate in the program is sufficient to establish that it acted with deliberate indifference and therefore intentionally.”

This is a violation of Title II of the ADA, Magnus-Stinson wrote. “Therefore, because Marion Circuit Court knew that Mr. King was deaf and required an ASL interpreter for mediation, was advised that he considered the ADA to apply, and it nevertheless denied him an interpreter or a reasonable accommodation, the Court finds that Marion Circuit Court intentionally discriminated against Mr. King.”

The order also denied the state’s motion for summary judgment in the 3-year-old litigation. Magnus-Stinson rejected the state’s arguments of sovereign and judicial immunity.

“In conclusion, the Court finds that Mr. King is a qualified individual, Marion Circuit Court is a public entity, and the Modest Means Mediation Program is a service, program, or activity all within the meaning of Title II of the ADA. Moreover, Marion Circuit Court violated Title II when it denied Mr. King’s request for an ASL interpreter for the Modest Means Mediation Program, failed to provide him with a reasonable accommodation, and intentionally discriminated against him on the basis of his disability.”

Andrea Ciobanu, who represents King, declined to comment on the order Monday.

“By statute the Attorney General's Office represents state courts and judges when they are sued in their official capacities.  We will review the U.S. District Court's ruling, confer with our Marion County Circuit Court client and decide on next steps by the appropriate deadlines,” said Indiana attorney general spokesman Bryan Corbin.

Despite being denied an interpreter, King continued with the mediation and asked his stepfather to be his interpreter. But Magnus-Stinson noted, “He has never interpreted in the courtroom and has never completed a program or obtained any certificates for interpreting in the courtroom. … Mr. King suffered emotional distress as a result of Marion Circuit Court’s refusal to provide an interpreter for mediation.” The mediation was successful, but King also incurred attorney fees in requesting the court to provide an interpreter.

Magnus-Stinson cautioned that courts must provide services equally, and cost cannot be a consideration in denial of services. The order explains the Marion County modest means mediation program is funded with a $20 court-filing fee assessed on divorce cases, and participants who qualify pay a $5 co-pay to use the service. The courts had a contract for sign language interpreters who billed $60 an hour for on-site interpretation, and the county had budgeted $25,000 for interpreter services in 2013.

The state argued unsuccessfully that its line-item budget for interpreters was inadmissible because there was no evidence that money could be used for interpreter services in mediation.

“The Court is mindful of the budget constraints all units of government face, but simple citation to lack of funding is not a sufficient response to a person with a disability seeking to avail himself of a governmental service,” Magnus-Stinson concluded. She ordered a conference scheduled for parties to discuss resolution of the remaining issues, perhaps through mediation.

Another recent case in the Southern District involved a deaf courtroom spectator who was denied an ASL interpreter during his mother’s criminal trial in Dearborn County. The state settled that case brought by Steven “Matt” Prakel and his mother, Carolyn Prakel, awarding $10,000 in compensatory damages to each of them and legal fees of $104,500.


  • Ada bedeviled?
    Much evidence on this site and other sites to suggest Indiana court system has a demonstrable lack of respect for the Americans with disabilities act.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. All of these comments you see on the internet about Dr matamah are not just comments, they are truthful words of experience written by those who have been there and found help in reuniting with the ones they hold dear to their heart and other marital and financial problems just like i did. am Svein Erik Bjerke from Gardermoen, Norway I can tell you this because I also asked him for help to cast a spell to fix my relationship with the only woman I have ever loved after been married four time in the last four years cos i didn't believe in love but in the power of being rich. When it came to meet my wife it was a different case because I fell for her in every way. At the time i met her it was only a while before the relationship became serious cos I bet she love me also. We moved in together and our relationship blossomed. we got married but couldn't have a baby and then I discovered my wife was barren. I had to try some spell casters but to no avail until I contacted Dr matamah. HE restored my wife's womb and just like that she got pregnant, she has given birth now and our baby is growing very healthy. I later casted a money spell through him which he did and today we are rich and doing very fine. Thank God for our lives and also to Dr matamah who God has used to blessed us. I know that not everybody will believe this moreover its just something on the internet but my heart knows every of this word that formed this entire comment is true. Am Leaving Dr matamah's contact for those who believe this and need help as well. his contact is:

  2. Or does the study merely wish they fade away? “It just hasn’t risen substantially in decades,” Joan Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law told Law360. “What we should be looking for is progress, and that’s not what we’re seeing.” PROGRESS = less white males in leadership. Thus the heading and honest questions here ....

  3. One need not wonder why we are importing sex slaves into North America. Perhaps these hapless victims of human trafficking were being imported for a book of play with the Royal Order of Jesters? Indianapolis hosts these major pervs in a big way .... I wonder what affect they exert on Hoosier politics? And its judiciary? A very interesting program on their history and preferences here:

  4. Joseph Buser, Montgomery County Chief Prosecutor, has been involved in both representing the State of Indiana as Prosecutor while filing as Representing Attorney on behalf of himself and the State of Indiana in Civil Proceedings for seized cash and merchandise using a Verified Complaint For Forfeiture of Motor Vehicle, Us Currency And Reimbursement Of Costs, as is evident in Montgomery County Circuit Court Case Number 54C01-1401-MI-000018, CCS below, seen before Judge Harry Siamas, and filed on 01/13/2014. Sheriff Mark Castille is also named. All three defendants named by summons have prior convictions under Mr. Buser, which as the Indiana Supreme Court, in the opinion of The Matter of Mark R. McKinney, No. 18S00-0905-DI-220, stated that McKinney created a conflict of interest by simultaneously prosecuting drug offender cases while pocketing assets seized from defendants in those cases. All moneys that come from forfeitures MUST go to the COMMON SCHOOL FUND.

  5. I was incarcerated at that time for driving while suspended I have no felonies...i was placed on P block I remember several girls and myself asking about voting that day..and wasn't given a answer or means of voting..we were told after the election who won that was it.