ADA Sanctions Order Will Lead to Outreach and Education to the Disability Community

For twenty years as a disability rights lawyer, I still feel compelled to explain to judges or attorneys that I am not like the attorneys who file the carbon-copy ADA cases that clog the federal docket.  Today is another day which I feel compelled to explain myself.  On Friday, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Paul C. Huck issued an order sanctioning Attorney Scott Dinin for entering into an “illicit joint enterprise” with a hearing impaired person to file frivolous claims under the Florida Civil Rights Act and enter into settlements under the Americans with Disabilities Act that provided no relief for the disability community.  See Dinin-Order-Imposing-Sanctions

Without a pause, the ADA defense lawyer community bemoaned that Mr. Dinin is just symptomatic of a law and a plaintiff’s bar in which abuse is rife.  Notably, Judge Huck’s order did not indict the disability rights bar, and detailed how Mr. Dinin abused the law that was enacted to protect the disabled community.

Over twenty percent of Floridians are persons with disabilities.  The unemployment rate for persons with disabilities remain at 70% of the disability population, and there is a lack of affordable and accessible housing and public transportation is notoriously unreliable.  Health care continues to be a constant struggle and persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities are consistently on the edge of institutionalization in isolated disability communities or psychiatric hospitals.  The stigma and stereotypes against mental illness and other disabilities serve to provide a rationale to continue to create barriers against community integration of persons with disabilities.

Twenty years ago, I met an advocate for disability rights who retained me to remove architectural barriers, and then I spent hundreds of hours to become involved in the many different facets of the disability community in Florida.  As a result, many of the cases that I bring arise from basic community access issues that after thirty years of this law, I should no longer need to bring.

So instead of more barriers to filing actions in court, we need lawyers who enter into the community and speak with persons with disabilities to understand the needs and barriers faced by the community.

In Judge Huck’s Order, it required Mr. Dinin to pay a penalty of $ 59,900.00 to Disability Independence Group, Inc. and Mr. Johnson to do community service.  Since these sanctions were issued as a result of frivolous claims under the Florida Civil Rights Act, and exorbitant fees for no relief, Disability Independence Group will attempt to address the harm to the community that this caused.  As such, we plan on providing a one year fellowship for a lawyer to go out into the community and educate and assist persons with disabilities on how to effectively self-advocate and to use the administrative process through the Florida Civil Rights Act and county human rights codes, to remove barriers and to resolve discrimination complaints.