ILNews

Suit claims courthouse violates ADA

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Four defendants in cases pending before the St. Joseph Superior Court have filed a lawsuit claiming that county's courthouse is inaccessible for people with disabilities.

Filed Monday in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division, the plaintiffs in Victoria Means, Tonia Matney, and Stephen and Margaret Hummel v. St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners, et al., No. 3:10-cv-00003, allege the St. Joseph County Courthouse and Mishawaka County Services Building don't comply with federal rules and standards to ensure access to public facilities for people using wheelchairs and those with visual impairments. The plaintiffs claim the buildings violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the federal and state constitutions.

Means and Matney use wheelchairs and the Hummels have limited mobility because of health issues. The four are parties in two separate cases that have been or are in the process of coming before the St. Joseph Superior Court. The plaintiffs' attorney, Kent Hull, also has a disability that requires him to use a wheelchair.

The plaintiffs claim the courthouse and services building lack accessibility in the restrooms, elevator, witness stands, counters used by the clerks, water fountains, and in other areas. They also claim parking is an issue at these buildings.

The suit alleges the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners, St. Joseph Superior Court, and the city of South Bend have been notified of the problems but haven't done anything to remedy them.

Means and the others are seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions preventing further violations, compensatory damages, and the appointment of a special master to oversee implementation of changes to make the buildings and parking lot compliant with regulations.

Attorney Greg Fehribach, of the Fehribach Group in Indianapolis, often works on issues dealing with the ADA. He is not involved with the case against the St. Joseph County Courthouse but has mediated cases like this in the past and said this type of case is nothing new in Indiana or around the country.

"As a lawyer who's been practicing since 1986 and a wheelchair user, I've seen quite a change in physical access to courthouses and government buildings. It has absolutely improved," Fehribach said. "The interesting thing, the part that's most concerning is any time there's a case regarding a courthouse ... if someone feels that they have been denied access to a government building or courthouse in 2010, I find that very disturbing."

He said the ADA will be 20 years old soon and there are still buildings that aren't up to date, which he said is far too long for nothing to be done.

There's no grandfather clause for older buildings not to comply with the ADA, and Fehribach said limited resources are often cited as the reason why they aren't up to date. Other issues like security often are in the forefront of people's minds when updating the courthouses, but Fehribach doesn't want officials to "hide behind the veil when you don't want to accept the issue that all men and women are created equal."

"That means access to government," he said.

He's not looked at this Northern District case, but he said if the judge rules in favor of the plaintiffs, the judge could order a timeline in which to remedy the inaccessibility, order it done immediately by an outside contractor and have the county pay, or other outcomes.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
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
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Bob Leonard killed two people named Jennifer and Dion Longworth. There were no Smiths involved.

  2. Being on this journey from the beginning has convinced me the justice system really doesn't care about the welfare of the child. The trial court judge knew the child belonged with the mother. The father having total disregard for the rules of the court. Not only did this cost the mother and child valuable time together but thousands in legal fees. When the child was with the father the mother paid her child support. When the child was finally with the right parent somehow the father got away without having to pay one penny of child support. He had to be in control. Since he withheld all information regarding the child's welfare he put her in harms way. Mother took the child to the doctor when she got sick and was totally embarrassed she knew nothing regarding the medical information especially the allergies, The mother texted the father (from the doctors office) and he replied call his attorney. To me this doesn't seem like a concerned father. Seeing the child upset when she had to go back to the father. What upset me the most was finding out the child sleeps with him. Sometimes in the nude. Maybe I don't understand all the rules of the law but I thought this was also morally wrong. A concerned parent would allow the child to finish the school year. Say goodbye to her friends. It saddens me to know the child will not have contact with the sisters, aunts, uncles and the 87 year old grandfather. He didn't allow it before. Only the mother is allowed to talk to the child. I don't think now will be any different. I hope the decision the courts made would've been the same one if this was a member of their family. Someday this child will end up in therapy if allowed to remain with the father.

  3. Ok attorney Straw ... if that be a good idea ... And I am not saying it is ... but if it were ... would that be ripe prior to her suffering an embarrassing remand from the Seventh? Seems more than a tad premature here soldier. One putting on the armor should not boast liked one taking it off.

  4. The judge thinks that she is so cute to deny jurisdiction, but without jurisdiction, she loses her immunity. She did not give me any due process hearing or any discovery, like the Middlesex case provided for that lawyer. Because she has refused to protect me and she has no immunity because she rejected jurisdiction, I am now suing her in her district.

  5. Sam Bradbury was never a resident of Lafayette he lived in rural Tippecanoe County, Thats an error.

ADVERTISEMENT