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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 (42 U.S.C. §§ ... 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 (42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.) and the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. § 794). 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 A. 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 voters with disabilities 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 voters with disabilities had fair access to the polls. The court ruled that it would retain jurisdiction over the case to monitor compliance until December 2016, and that 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 Second Circuit (Judge Carbanes, Hall, and 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 needed to show that the Board of Elections failed to provide “meaningful access” and that 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, albeit one that 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. In 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) were not fully accessible for people with disabilities.

On October 11, 2017, Judge Pitman issued an opinion recommending that the District Court reject the plaintiff’s motion to join the Department of Education. 2017 WL 8683672. 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. On March 27, 2018, Judge Batts adopted Judge Pitt's recommendation. 2018 WL 1582231.

On April 26, 2018, the parties reached a settlement agreement as to payment of attorneys' fees for all post-judgment activity. Under the settlement, the City of New York agreed to pay Disability Rights Advocates $455,000.

On May 30, 2019, the parties filed a joint motion to reopen the case. Specifically, they asked that the court to reduce the defendant's reporting requirements. On June 11, 2019, Judge Batts granted the motion.

On November 27, 2019, the plaintiffs wrote to the court and recommended that the court allow its jurisdiction over enforcement of the remedial order to expire as scheduled on December 31, 2019. The plaintiffs agreed that the defendant was compliant with the court order and had substantially improved polling place accessibility. The defendants submitted a similar letter on December 1, 2019.

On January 10, 2020, Judge Batts acknowledged receipt of both letters and declared that the court's jurisdiction was thereby terminated. The case is now closed.

Jonathan Forman - 06/30/2013
Will McCartney - 02/18/2018
Hope Brinn - 04/20/2020


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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
Reporting
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 Individuals with disabilities denied meaningful access to the ballot
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se 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
Filed 07/26/2010
Case Closing Year 2020
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
1:10−cv−05653 (S.D.N.Y.)
VR-NY-0357-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/10/2020
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]
Letter re: Final Progress Letter [ECF# 211, 211-1]
VR-NY-0357-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/27/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Batts, Deborah A. (S.D.N.Y.) show/hide docs
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, José Alberto (FISCR, D. Conn., Second Circuit) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-0010
Chin, Denny (S.D.N.Y., Second Circuit) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-0010
Hall, Peter W. (Second Circuit) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-0010
Pitman, Henry B. (S.D.N.Y.) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-0008
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brandt-Young, Christina (New York) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-0013 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Chuang, Christine (California) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-0011 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Elsberry, Ronald (California) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-0001 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Kozak-Oxnard, Andrea Moody (New York) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-9000
Mintzer, Kevin Todd (New York) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-0011 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Packrone, Seth Emmanuel (New York) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-9000
Pinover, Julia (New York) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-0001 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Seaborn, Stuart (California) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-9000
Wang, Mariann Meier (New York) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-0011 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Wolinsky, Sidney M. (California) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-0001 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Kitzinger, Stephen Edward (New York) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-0011 | VR-NY-0357-9000
Koerner, Leonard J. (New York) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-0007
Other Lawyers Schlesinger, Alan Maer (New York) show/hide docs
VR-NY-0357-9000

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