On April 7, 1998, several past and present prisoners at and visitors to Santa Clara County jail facilities who are deaf and rely on sign language for effective communication filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, against the Santa Clara Department of Corrections. The plaintiffs, represented by the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, the California Center for Law and the Deaf, AIDS Legal Services and private counsel, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-34; and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, claiming that they were being excluded from a wide range of correctional programs and services on the basis of their disabilities. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant had discriminated against deaf and hard of hearing prisoners by failing to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary for effective communication, failing to provide notice to deaf and hard of hearing inmates of their rights under the ADA, and failing to make available, to deaf and hard of hearing inmates, information about the existence and location of accessible services. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief.
On April 21, 1998, the plaintiffs moved the court to certify the class action and to grant a preliminary injunction. On April 29, the defendants moved to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim. On June 29, 1998, the United States filed a motion to participate as amicus curiae and a memorandum in support of plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction.
The District Court (Judge Ronald M. Whyte) set hearings for all motions in the August and September, but these hearings were postponed as the parties attempted to settle the case. They reached an agreement in the first few months of 1999. Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants agreed to provide disability training for all staff, to consider disabilities during classification to determine whether a prisoners requires special placement, to provide a cell with a telecommunications device for the deaf ("TDD") machine, to have arresting officers note any arrestee disabilities on their forms, to individually relay public announcements to deaf and hard of hearing prisoners, and to complete an assessment interview of prisoners with disabilities within 72 hours of intake to ensure equal access to correctional programs.
The Court (Judge Whyte) certified a settlement class action on March 8, 1999, approved plaintiffs' attorneys' fees in the amount of $196,454.86, with an additional $9,841 for disbursements, on April 28, and granted final approval of the settlement agreement on June 14.
The docket indicates that on September 1, 1999, one of the plaintiffs moved the court to set aside the judgment and decertify the class, but there are no further entries, and as of the date of this summary, we have no further information on this case.Christopher Schad - 08/20/2012