University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name Pierce v. District of Columbia JC-DC-0014
Docket / Court 1:13-cv-00134-JEB ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Jail Conditions
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National Prison Project
Case Summary
On February 1, 2013, a deaf jail inmate filed this lawsuit on behalf of himself in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiff claimed that the officials at DC’s Correctional Treatment Facility denied him (1) effective access to qualified interpreters (2) effective access ... read more >
On February 1, 2013, a deaf jail inmate filed this lawsuit on behalf of himself in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiff claimed that the officials at DC’s Correctional Treatment Facility denied him (1) effective access to qualified interpreters (2) effective access to telecommunications, (3) access to jail alerts and announcements, and (4) adequate access to visitation. This effectively prevented the plaintiff from communicating with staff and inmates inside the jail, and family and friends during visitation hours. The plaintiff sued the District of Columbia under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the plaintiff sought damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.

The plaintiff claimed that officers at the D.C. Correctional Treatment Facility denied him adequate accommodations from the moment he arrived. The plaintiff’s native language was American Sign Language. He had relied on interpreters and auxiliary aids when communicating with people who did not know American Sign Language. Although he could communicate via notes in written English, it was his second language and no substitute for the accommodations guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. Yet no interpreter was present for intake, orientation, or at any point during the plaintiff’s fifty-one day sentence. The lack of accommodation prevented the plaintiff from obtaining adequate health care, accessing the facility’s rehabilitative services, and communicating with visitors. During in person visits, the plaintiff wore handcuffs. The plaintiff analogized that this was equivalent to gagging a hearing prisoner.

On April 4, 2013 the case was reassigned to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Over a year later on August 2, 2014, Judge Jackson referred the case to a magistrate judge for mediation. But by October, the parties had not reached a settlement. The case proceeded through discovery.

On November 14, 2014 the plaintiff moved for summary judgment with respect to claim (1) that he had been denied access to an interpreter, and claim (2) that he had been denied effective telecommunication technology. On September 2, 2015, the judge granted the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment with respect to his claims that the facility had denied him adequate access to interpreters and telecommunications technology. 128 F.Supp.3d 250 (D.D.C. 2015). On September 29, 2015 the defendant filed a motion to reconsider the summary judgment the court had filed against them. Judge Brown denied this motion on November 25, 2015. 146 F.Supp.3d 197 (D.D.C. 2015).

The case then went to trial with respect to the plaintiff’s remaining Rehabilitation Act claims, and on May 11, 2016 the jury returned a judgment for the plaintiff and awarded $70,000 in damages. The city appealed. The District of Columbia sought and obtained an order to withhold attorneys' fees from the judgment until the appeal had been resolved.

The Defendant appealed on the following issues: the calculation of the plaintiff's damages, whether there was a duty to conduct disability assessment before admitting the plaintiff, whether there was a genuine issue of fact that the jail afforded the plaintiff an interpreter and on the plaintiffs non-interpreter claims, and whether the court erred in allowing opinions from the plaintiff's experts. Before the appeal resolved though, the parties entered a settlement agreement on November 11, 2016. Information regarding this settlement is not available on the docket.

Subsequently, the D.C. appellate court entered a stipulated dismissal, requiring each party to pay their own attorneys' fees and costs. The case is now closed.

Keagan Potts - 01/30/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Male
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
Hearing impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Effective Communication (ADA)
Individualized planning
Reasonable Modifications
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) District of Columbia
Plaintiff Description Deaf Jail Inmate
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National Prison Project
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Damages
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Voluntary Dismissal
Filing Year 2013
Case Closing Year 2016
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
1:13-cv-00134 (D.D.C.)
JC-DC-0014-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/29/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
JC-DC-0014-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/01/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order in Favor of Plaintiff Granting Summary Judgment [ECF# 83] (128 F.Supp.3d 250) (D.D.C.)
JC-DC-0014-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/02/2015
Source: Westlaw
Brief of Amicus Curiae [ECF# 104]
JC-DC-0014-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/10/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 107] (146 F.Supp.3d 197) (D.D.C.)
JC-DC-0014-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/25/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Jackson, Ketanji Brown (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-0003 | JC-DC-0014-0005 | JC-DC-0014-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Kalt, Damon J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-9000
Mulhauser, Frederick V. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-0001 | JC-DC-0014-9000
Rocap, James Elmer III (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-9000
Spitzer, Arthur (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-0001 | JC-DC-0014-9000
Talbot, Bizunesh K. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-9000
Tennis, Rachel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-9000
Thanawala, Nina Shishir (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-9000
Wedekind, Jennifer A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-0001 | JC-DC-0014-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Berkowitz, Matthew D. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-9000
Bravo, Mariana Del Valle (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-9000
Feldon, Gary Daniel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-9000
Graham, Grace (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-9000
Koger, Thomas Louis (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-9000
Orcutt, Anne Marie (Arizona) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-9000
Rosenbloom, Douglas Stuart (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-9000
Struck, Daniel Patrick (Arizona) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-9000
Other Lawyers Charmatz, Marc P. (Maryland) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-0004
Jackson, Caroline E. (Maryland) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-0004
Patkin, Debra Joy (Maryland) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-0004 | JC-DC-0014-9000
Rosenblum, Howard A (Maryland) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-0004
Vargas, Mary C. (Maryland) show/hide docs
JC-DC-0014-0004 | JC-DC-0014-9000

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