US, ACLU join deaf litigant in ADA suit against Indiana court

A deaf litigant who was denied a sign language interpreter for court-ordered mediation in his child-custody case has the support of the U.S. Department of Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana in his federal disability-discrimination lawsuit against Marion Circuit Court.

The Department of Justice on Friday filed an amicus brief on behalf of Dustin King, who last year won a federal district court ruling in his favor on his discrimination claim.

“Marion Circuit Court has failed to show that intentional discrimination requires prejudice or ill will. The district court appropriately determined that Marion Circuit Court was deliberately indifferent to King’s rights and was subject to damages,” the DOJ concludes in its brief.

Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson awarded King $10,380 in damages in September, ruling that Marion Superior Court violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Magnus-Stinson found King was entitled to damages. His attorneys likely will be entitled to legal fees paid by Marion Circuit Court, the policy arm governing Marion Superior Court.

King was ordered to participate in Marion Superior Court’s federally funded modest-means mediation program in his child-custody case, but the court refused to provide an American Sign Language interpreter when he requested one. The court offered to waive the requirement that King participate, but Magnus-Stinson ruled this wasn’t an accommodation under the ADA, because King wanted to participate in the mediation.

King ultimately did participate with the assistance of a family member who could translate in ASL, but Magnus-Stinson noted he was deprived a certified court interpreter who should have been provided. She granted his summary judgment motion in May.

The state appealed judgment in favor of King to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, prompting the DOJ’s intervention as amicus in Dustin King v. Marion Circuit Court, 16-3726. The state, represented by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, argues in its appellate brief that the court is entitled to sovereign immunity, there is no constitutional dimension to King’s case, and that he didn’t establish a claim under the ADA.

Along with the Department of Justice, attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana have entered appearance and filed briefs in King’s case.

The Indiana Attorney General’s office did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Monday.

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