International Disability Rights News Service
Your quick, once-a-day look at disability rights, self-determination
and the movement toward full community inclusion around the world.

Monday, May 17, 2004
Year V, Edition 935

Today's front section features 8 news and information items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
Click on the"Below the Fold" link at the bottom of this section for 36 more news items.

"This decision reaffirms the Americans with Disabilities Act, and declares that the civil rights our nation promises to citizens should not be superseded by states' rights."

--Alan A. Reich, President of the National Organization on Disability, in response to Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Tennessee v. Lane (First story)

"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge he privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States . . . nor deny to any person within is jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
--From the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified July 9, 1868



High Court Upholds Access To Courts

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 17, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC--A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that individuals can sue states for failing to provide access to the courts.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court found that states must follow Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act -- which guarantees accessibility of public facilities and services -- when it comes to the courts, or face lawsuits from individuals.

Disability rights advocates called the decision a victory, following a series of Supreme Court rulings that have limited the scope of the federal 1990 anti-discrimination law. The ruling means that Congress had the authority to order states to make sure citizens with disabilities are not denied their rights to "equal protection under the laws" as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"Today's decision is a huge win at a critical time for millions of Americans with disabilities," said Ira Burnim, legal director at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in a statement. "The Supreme Court today narrowly rejected a radical interpretation of states' rights that would have robbed millions of a vital means of protecting their civil rights."

Andrew J. Imparato, President of the American Association of People with Disabilities, said, "Five justices on the Supreme Court, including Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, have made an important ruling today that recognizes the history of unconstitutional discrimination against people with disabilities by State governments. For this ruling to come down on the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision is appropriate and welcome."

The case, Tennessee v. Lane et al., was brought against the state in 1998 by three Tennesseans who claimed they had been denied access to the courts because of their disabilities.

George Lane tried to sue the state for $100,000 for violating his right to equal access to Polk County Courthouse. Because there was no elevator or other accommodations at the courthouse, Lane, who lost a leg in an auto accident, had to crawl up two flights of stairs for an arraignment on misdemeanor traffic charges. When a pretrial hearing was rescheduled, Lane refused to again crawl up the stairs to the courtroom. He also refused to be carried by court employees. Lane sent word to the judge that he was downstairs, but the judge ordered him arrested and jailed for "failure to appear" in court. Lane later said the judge and court staff stood at the top of the stairs and laughed at him.

Beverly Jones, a court reporter who uses a wheelchair, joined Lane in his suit, claiming that the state's failure to make county courthouses accessible to her created a hardship and limited the jobs available to her. Jones said that she was unable to enter four county courthouses where lawyers had hired her to record court proceedings. She listed another 19 Tennessee counties that have inaccessible courthouses.

Ralph Ramsey joined the suit after a Tennessee judge had ruled against him in a separate civil case. Ramsey had not been able to defend himself in the civil suit because there was no elevator to reach the second floor courtroom where his case was being heard. The judge ordered the case to proceed without Ramsey and without moving the trial.

After lower courts ruled for the Lane, Jones and Ramsey, Tennessee's Attorney General Paul Summers appealed arguing that the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution does not allow individual citizens to sue states or local governments for damages, except in specific circumstances. That argument worked in the case of Alabama v. Garrett when the high court in February 2001 ruled that a state employee with a disability could not sue her employer under Title I of the ADA, which covers equal employment opportunity.

Some experts noted that the Supreme Court's vote on Monday was close, with the moderate conservative Justice O'Connor siding with the four liberal members of the high court rather than the four more conservative justices. The ruling also dealt narrowly with Title II and the issue of access to the courts. Whether it applies to barriers to other government facilities and services will likely have to be worked out through future courts.

In his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote, "Indeed, there is nothing in the legislative record or statutory findings to indicate that disabled persons were systematically denied the right to be present at criminal trials, denied the meaningful opportunity to be heard in civil cases, unconstitutionally excluded from jury service, or denied the right to attend criminal trials."

"Tennessee v. Lane Et Al." (U.S. Supreme Court)
"Supreme Court Decision in Lane vs. Tennessee an Historic Ruling, Says N.O.D." (National Organization on Disability)
"High Court Upholds Access To State Courts: State of Tennessee v. Lane et al" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)



Latimer Accuses High Court Of "Fabrication"

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 17, 2004

METCHOSIN, BRITISH COLUMBIA--Robert Latimer, who is serving a mandatory 10 years of life sentence for murdering his daughter, Tracy, said during a rare prison interview last week that he will not seek clemency -- to have his prison term reduced.

Instead, the Saskatchewan farmer said he wants the Canada Supreme Court to explain why it suggested he could have used more effective medication to ease Tracy's pain.

Latimer confessed to using exhaust fumes from his pickup truck to kill 12-year-old Tracy on October 24, 1993. He said he did it out of love for the girl -- that it was a "mercy killing" motivated by his desire to not see her "continue to suffer" from her cerebral palsy and mental retardation.

At the time of her death, Tracy was scheduled for hip surgery that was to reduce pain and discomfort. Latimer insists that doctors said Tracy would only be able to take Tylenol after the surgery.

When it handed down its 2001 decision to lock Latimer away for at least 10 years, the high court said Tracy could have been given stronger medication to relieve her pain.

"It's a fabrication," Latimer told a Canadian Press reporter at William Head Institution, the minimum-security prison where he is now serving his sentence. "It's certainly contrary to everything I've ever understood."

When Latimer applied for a re-hearing in 2002, the high court denied his application, calling the case closed.

Latimer said he would not apply for clemency until the medication issue is cleared up.

Many disability rights advocates have suggested that Latimer murdered Tracy because he was tired of dealing with his own emotional pain. Some people who knew Tracy said that even though the girl did not speak, she let them know how much she loved people and enjoyed life.

The Latimer case has been the focus of attention for disability rights advocates around the world who see it as one of countless examples that society in general does not think the lives of people with disabilities are important -- that killing people who have certain disabilities is not only tolerated, but also justified as "merciful".

University of Alberta psychology professor Dick Sobsey has noted that Canada experienced a marked increase in the incidence of "altruistic filicide" -- the killing of a child out of a belief that death is in the child's best interest -- in the years immediately after Tracy's murder.

Polls have indicated that most Canadians sympathize with Latimer and support setting him free.

"Latimer still questions ruling, won't seek clemency" (Canadian Press)
"Tracy Latimer's Death: Mercy or Murder?" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)



Gray Resists Plans To Renovate House

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 17, 2004

CARLSVILLE, WISCONSIN--Jimmy Gray says he doesn't want to leave his house for fear that people will take away things that are important to him.

But Door County officials, along with the numerous volunteers that have descended on his property to renovate his house, are insisting he not be there during construction.

"I want to be here to see what they're doing," Gray, 37, told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "They'll come in and say, 'That's garbage, we'll throw that away.'"

Gray, who reportedly has a developmental disability, said that is what happened last year when the county ordered a cleanup of trash that was stacked to the ceiling in his home. Gray called police at the time to report that people were stealing important items which reminded him of his parents, who died several years earlier. County officials said the empty soda pop cans, newspapers, and even used toilet paper were creating a health hazard.

The Press-Gazette reported earlier this month that Gray's life-long home was condemned as a health hazard. County officials, non-profit agencies, volunteers and anonymous donors have responded by offering to provide a new septic system, plumbing, exterior paint, appliances, bathroom fixtures, and to remove all rubbish and trash.

Gray says he just wants more room to store his stuff.

One county health official told the paper that Gray must cooperate or there would be severe consequences.

Last week, a state representative suggested a guardian be appointed to "take some responsibility for him [Gray] and help him improve his life."

"Gray balks at some aspects of home project" (Green Bay Press-Gazette)



Schuman Wins "Best Of" Award For Accessibility Series

May 17, 2004

GREELEY, COLORADO--Last Friday, reporter Matt Schuman and photographer Darin McGregor of the Greeley Tribune were presented with the "Best of Colorado Award" at the annual Colorado Society of Professional Journalists banquet.

The two ware honored for their seven-part series called "Access and Ability" which ran in May and June 2003. The series focused on the barriers Coloradoans with disabilities face in education, health care, employment, housing and transportation.

Schuman, 40, has been a reporter for the Greeley Tribune since 1986, mostly covering local sports. He disclosed in the series that has spinal muscular atrophy type 1 and uses a wheelchair.

Entire series:
"Access & Ability" (Greeley Tribune)


Former School Bus Driver Pleads Guilty To Abusing 9-year-old

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 17, 2004

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN--Former school bus driver Brian Duchow pleaded guilty Monday to child abuse one year after a tape recorder captured the sounds of him threatening to beat a 9-year-old boy.

"There was always a certainty in our minds that he was guilty," Rosemary Mutulo, whose son had been threatened, told reporters.

Rosemary and her husband Vince had been concerned about reports that Jacob, who has Down syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was being disruptive on the school bus. They put a voice-activated audio tape recorder in his backpack so they could hear how he was misbehaving.

When Jacob got home on April 29, 2003 the parents listened to the tape and heard Duchow stopping the bus, then moving toward Jacob.

According to the parents, Duchow could then be heard slapping Jacob's clothing and threatening to break his arms and telling him, "I'm going to smack the living hell out of you."

Duchow later admitted that he had slapped Jacob.

Since the incident, the Mutulos have appeared on national news programs, telling their story and encouraging lawmakers to make video cameras mandatory in school buses that transport children with disabilities.

Duchow could get up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine at a July 22 sentencing hearing. As part of a plea bargain, a disorderly conduct charge was thrown out in exchange for Duchow's guilty plea.



Neighborhoods Online

Neighborhoods Online was created in 1995 by the Institute for the Study of Civic Values and as an online resource center for America's neighborhood builders--people who work through grassroots organizations, as volunteers, and in government to build strong neighborhoods and communities throughout the country.

Our aim is to provide fast access to information and ideas covering all aspects of neighborhood revitalization, as well as to create a national network of activists and people in government working on problems that affect us where we live.


# EXPRESS EXTRA!!! From the Inclusion Daily Express Archives (Three years ago):


Community Advocates Welcome Announced Closure

May 15, 2001

SOUTHGATE, MICHIGAN--Last week, James K. Haveman Jr., director of the Michigan Department of Community Health, announced plans to close Southgate Center within the next nine months. Most of the 55 people living at the institution will be moved into homes in the community.

The decision has been welcomed by Gov. John Engler's administration and community advocates who have seen 12 institutions close since 1990.

"It's a sad, sad way for people to live," Dohn Hoyle, president of the Washtenaw Association for Community Advocacy told the Detroit News. "It's people lumped together amid a sterile environment that smells like a combination of urine, vomit and sweat. You wouldn't want anyone you cared about to live in a place like that."

Leaders of the union representing 178 Southgate Center employees say they are worried the residents will fail without the institution. "The people who are left in Southgate have been in and out of the community and couldn't make it," said a union spokesman.

"Mental health center's planned closing cheered" (Detroit News)


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