On April 7, 2010 eight people with disabilities who live in several communities in Nassau County, New York filed a class action lawsuit alleging violations of their civil rights in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The Plaintiffs, represented by a private ...
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On April 7, 2010 eight people with disabilities who live in several communities in Nassau County, New York filed a class action lawsuit alleging violations of their civil rights in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The Plaintiffs, represented by a private attorney, sought declaratory and injunctive relief and damages, claiming that the Defendant's decision to discontinue its paratransit service for people with disabilities violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the regulations promulgated to implement it. Specifically, the Plaintiffs claim that the Defendant's decision to discontinue the paratransit program violated the ADA's requirement "to provide with respect to the operations of its [transit system] paratransit and other special transportation services to individuals with disabilities,... that are sufficient to provide such individuals a level of service which is comparable to the level of designated public transportation services provided to individuals without disabilities using such system..." Furthermore, the Plaintiffs claim that the Defendant violated the ADA and the act's regulations by failing to provide an adequate mechanism for public comment from the disabled community as required by the relevant provisions when the decision to terminate the paratransit program was made.
On April 9, 2010 the Court entered a temporary restraining order preventing the defendant from implementing any changes to its paratransit program. The temporary restraining order stayed in effect until May 25, 2010.
The Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and on May 25, 2010 the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted the motion while simultaneously denying the Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction enjoining the Defendant from implementing its plan to discontinue the paratransit program. The court first addressed the Plaintiff's public comment claim. Without deciding whether the regulations promulgated to implement the ADA provide a private right of action, the court granted the Defendant's motion because it found that the regulation cited by the Plaintiffs was not applicable to the reduction in paratransit services. The court found that the Defendant's original paratransit plan went above and beyond the requirements of the ADA. Consequently, even after the termination of that program, the Defendant remained in compliance with the ADA. Therefore, the court found that the regulation which says, "if an entity has met and is continuing to meet all requirements for complementary paratransit... the entity may submit to FTA an annual certification of continued compliance in lieu of a plan update," applies. Moreover, the court pointed towards the regulation that states an "entity... ensure public participation in the development of its paratransit plan," as opposed to a modification. In the end, the court found that the regulations at issue did not require the MTA to include public participation in its decision to end the paratransit program. Additionally, the court found that the plaintiffs could not establish a prima facie case of unconstitutional discrimination based on disparate impact because the services offered after the reductions in service would still meet the requirements of the ADA.
Plaintiffs filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit on May 26, 2010. In their appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the District Court had misinterpreted the ADA by regulations finding that they did not require public participation to implement the change to the paratransit program. The plaintiffs argued that the regulations at issue require public participation not only during the development of the paratransit program required by the ADA but also during the continued operation of such a plan, including during the period in which changes are proposed.
The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's orders, finding that the defendant's paratransit program went above and beyond the requirements of the ADA. In fact, the Court found that the Defendant's "Able-Ride" paratransit program substantially exceeded the level of accessible transportation required by the ADA. Furthermore, and most importantly, the Circuit Court found that the public comment regulation was not enforceable through a private right of action. Specifically, the Court found that a private right of action does not exist to enfore the Department of Transportation's ongoing public participation regulation.Justin Benson - 06/20/2011