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

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

ADVERTISEMENT