The Law Office of Asit Panwala successfully sued the Superior Court of Santa Clara County for a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Superior Court has agreed to take measures so that it does not happen again in addition to paying monetary damages.
In March of 2016, the Superior Court denied a request for CART (Computer-Aided Real Time Transcription) services to a litigant who is hard-of-hearing. His hearing aids do not help in a courtroom setting. CART services allows one to read what is being said, just like captioning on TV. Instead, the client came to court and could not understand the arguments being made in his case or the questions from the Court. The Superior Court denied the accommodation because it was made three days in advance instead of five as required by a rule of court. The Court denied the request minutes after receiving it, without making any real effort to find a CART provider.
In discovery, the Law Office of Asit Panwala learned that eleven other persons were denied CART services including five based on the timeliness of the request.
As a result of the public settlement, the Superior Court has promised to maintain a list of independent CART providers, undergo sensitivity training, highlight on their website that they will try to accommodate requests made less than five days before the hearing as well as pay a significant amount in damages. See Panwala v. Santa Clara County Superior Court, case no. 5:16-cv-5914.
Asit Panwala hopes this resolution will remind the Courts that they have an obligation to be accessible to the public including those with disabilities. He hopes that they will “just follow the law.“