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Case Name United Spinal Association v. Board of Elections in the City of New York VR-NY-0357
Docket / Court 1:10-cv-05653-DAB ( S.D.N.Y. )
Additional Docket(s) 12-4412  [ 12-4412 ]
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Election/Voting Rights
Case Summary
On July 26, 2010, the United Spinal Association and Disabled in Action represented by Disabled Rights Advocates filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, against the Board of Elections in the City of New York, under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the ... read more >
On July 26, 2010, the United Spinal Association and Disabled in Action represented by Disabled Rights Advocates filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, against the Board of Elections in the City of New York, under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the defendants knowingly failed to fix deficiencies in accessibility at polling places throughout New York City.

The parties each sought summary judgment. On August 8, 2012, the District Court (Judge Deborah Batts) granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, holding that the Board of Elections' failure to remedy the accessibility issues at various polling places across the city denied disabled voters a meaningful opportunity to participate in or benefit from the city's voting program and was in violation of both the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. 882 F. Supp. 2d 615. Accordingly, the judge ordered the Board of Elections to implement a program to allow disabled voters the ability to vote. Following an appearance by the Department of Justice, the two sides and the DOJ came to an agreement regulating the new procedure that the Board of Elections would follow to ensure that disabled voters had fair access to the polls. The court ruled that it would jurisdiction over compliance until December 2016, and the implementation would be overseen by Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman.

In the meantime, the City appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on November 5, 2012. The court circuit judges, Judge Carbanes, Judge Hall and Judge Chin heard oral argument on December 12, 2013 and then on May 14, 2014 the court issued its decision affirming the district court’s ruling. The court held that the plaintiffs did not need to show that any voters had been “disenfranchised” by the barriers, but only need to show that the Board of Elections failed to provide “meaningful access” and the Board had failed to dispute the existence of barriers. In addition, the court acknowledged the difficulty of meeting the requirements of the remedial order, but concluded that injunctive relief was a reasonable remedial order but would require prudent oversight. 752 F.3d 189.

Afterward, on February 5, 2015 the parties reached an agreement for attorney’s fees in the amount of $1.8 million which the judge confirmed on March 10, 2015. On January 2017 Judge Batts extended the court's jurisdiction over the case until December 2019. Meanwhile, the defendants continued to take measures to comply with the court’s remedial order and plaintiffs filed reports about the status of election location access. The parties hired a third-party expert to survey sites and make recommendations for alterations to meet the requirements of the remedial order.

Then, on February 14, 2017 the plaintiffs moved to join the New York Department of Education to enforce the remedial order. They did so because roughly half of all polling locations in New York are at schools, and 83% of them according to the DOJ are not fully accessible for people with disabilities.

On October 11, 2017, Judge Pitman issued an opinion recommending that the District Court reject plaintiff’s motion to join the Department of Education. While Judge Pitman recognized that if the Department of Education had been included at the start of litigation, it would have allowed for more complete relief to be rendered, he did not think it appropriate to join the Department without giving them a chance to defend themselves in court. Judge Batts has not formally ruled on this recommendation and as of February 18, 2018, the case is still ongoing.

Jonathan Forman - 06/30/2013
Will McCartney - 02/18/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Provide antidiscrimination training
Reasonable Accommodation
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Disability
Mobility impairment
Discrimination-area
Accommodation / Leave
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Barrier Removal
Government Services (specify)
Reasonable Accommodations
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Voting
Voting access
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Type of Facility
Government-run
Voting
Election administration
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Defendant(s) Board of Elections in the City of New York
Plaintiff Description Disabled plaintiffs denied meaningful access to the ballot
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2012 - 2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
1:10−cv−05653 (S.D.N.Y.)
VR-NY-0357-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/11/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 1]
VR-NY-0357-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/26/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Denying Motion for a Preliminary Injunction] [ECF# 50] (S.D.N.Y.)
VR-NY-0357-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/28/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Denying Motion to Dismiss Complaint] [ECF# 57] (S.D.N.Y.)
VR-NY-0357-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/28/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum & Order [Granting Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Denying Defendant's for Summary Judgment] [ECF# 105] (882 F.Supp.2d 615) (S.D.N.Y.)
VR-NY-0357-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/08/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum & Order [Withdrawing Reference to Magistrate Judge Pitman] [ECF# 106] (S.D.N.Y.)
VR-NY-0357-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/08/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 119] (S.D.N.Y.)
VR-NY-0357-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/08/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Appeal [ECF# 123]
VR-NY-0357-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/26/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 127] (S.D.N.Y.)
VR-NY-0357-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/28/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Modified Order [ECF# 130] (S.D.N.Y.)
VR-NY-0357-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/13/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judgment [ECF# 138] (S.D.N.Y.)
VR-NY-0357-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/09/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation of Settlement of Plaintiffs' Claim for Attorneys' Fees and Costs [ECF# 150] (S.D.N.Y.)
VR-NY-0357-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/10/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation [ECF# 199]
VR-NY-0357-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/11/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Batts, Deborah A. (S.D.N.Y.)
VR-NY-0357-0002 | VR-NY-0357-0003 | VR-NY-0357-0004 | VR-NY-0357-0005 | VR-NY-0357-0006 | VR-NY-0357-0009 | VR-NY-0357-0011 | VR-NY-0357-0012 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Cabranes, Jose Alberto (Second Circuit, FISCR, D. Conn.)
VR-NY-0357-0010
Chin, Denny (S.D.N.Y., Second Circuit)
VR-NY-0357-0010
Hall, Peter W. (Second Circuit)
VR-NY-0357-0010
Pitman, Henry B. (S.D.N.Y.)
VR-NY-0357-0008
Plaintiff's Lawyers Chuang, Christine (California)
VR-NY-0357-0011 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Elsberry, Ronald (California)
VR-NY-0357-0001 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Mintzer, Kevin Todd (New York)
VR-NY-0357-0011 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Pinover, Julia (New York)
VR-NY-0357-0001 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Seaborn, Stuart (California)
VR-NY-0357-9000
Wang, Mariann Meier (New York)
VR-NY-0357-0011 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Wolinsky, Sidney M. (California)
VR-NY-0357-0001 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Kitzinger, Stephen Edward (New York)
VR-NY-0357-0011 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Koerner, Leonard J. (New York)
VR-NY-0357-0007

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