Commonwealth of Virginia Sued Regarding ADA Discrimination Against Deaf Defendant
Settlement Agreement and Release of Claims
The United States of America
Entities of the Commonwealth of Virginia
On September 30, 2015, the Complainant, who is deaf and communicates using American Sign Language (ASL), was arrested and taken into custody in Orange County, Virginia by the Virginia State Police (VSP), where she appeared at a bail hearing before a magistrate. No sign language or other interpreter was in attendance at the bail hearing. VSP records indicate that the responsible VSP law enforcement officers were aware that Complainant was deaf and, prior to the arrest, these officers notified and sought assistance from the Orange County Circuit Court Clerk to facilitate effective communication with the Complainant. The VSP claims its officers were told by the circuit court clerk that no interpreters or other services were available. At the bail hearing the magistrate ordered the Complainant to be held without bail in the Central Virginia Regional Jail.
Eventually the Court set a bail hearing for October 30, 2015, which was the same day that the co-defendants in the criminal matter, the Complainant’s parents who were out on bail, were scheduled to come before the Court to be arraigned. At the October 30, 2015 hearing, an interpreter was present and provided interpreting services for the Complainant.
The Complainant, who is deaf and uses ASL to communicate, alleged that both the Central Virginia Regional Jail (CVRJ) magistrate and the Orange County Circuit Court failed to provide a qualified interpreter or other appropriate auxiliary aids or services so that she could communicate with the CVRJ magistrate and the Orange County Circuit Court. The Complainant stated that she was incarcerated without bond in the CVRJ for thirty (30) days as a result of the alleged failures. The result of this settlement includes the following:
ADA Coordinators for Each Judicial Circuit. Within one month of the execution date of this Agreement, the Chief Justice shall send to all circuit and district court chief judges a memorandum requesting that the chief judges of the circuit and district courts within each judicial circuit designate one person to serve as an ADA coordinator for all of the circuit and district courts in the judicial circuit.
After-hours Interpreting and Additional Interpreter Resources. As required by Virginia Code additional resources to cover after-hours and Nonscheduled Interpreter Requests (“NIR”), for in-person interpreting services will be designated.
Training. In calendar years 2019 and 2020, at least thirty (30) minutes of live training on ADA issues at each statewide conference for all judges, magistrates and district and circuit court clerks shall be made available.
Reporting. For a twenty-three (23) month period beginning March 1, 2019, the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia (ESSCV) will provide periodic reports to the Department of Justice.
Complaints. During the term of this Agreement, the Commonwealth Entities shall notify the U.S. Attorney’s Office of any lawsuit or complaint they receive or are made aware of, alleging that any of the Commonwealth Entities failed to comply with the ADA with respect to participants in judicial proceedings who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind.
Payment. The Commonwealth Entities shall approve a payment of $55,000.00 to be made for the benefit of the Complainant.
Term of Agreement. This Agreement shall be in effect for twenty-three (23) months from the Effective Date (approximately March 2019).