|January 18, 2006|
Alito and Disability Rights
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
It may be hard to believe, but one area of Judge Samuel A. Alito’s record remains unexamined by most major media: his views on the rights of Americans with disabilities.
A close look at Judge Alito’s opinions and writings makes it clear that he would like to reverse the historic gains of people with disabilities. He has relied repeatedly on a cramped vision of congressional authority to protect the rights of all citizens, and he has routinely ignored the factual record of discrimination and abuse of people with disabilities.
We ask that you review the facts below and share with your audience this further reason why Judge Alito should not be confirmed as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court.
• In Pirolli v. World Flavors, Inc., in 1999, Alito wanted to dismiss the discrimination claim of a man with mental disabilities because his lawyer used incorrect language in the legal papers. The man’s coworkers had forcibly sodomized him with a broom, stuffed him into a garbage can, beat him and made humiliating remarks about his disability. Fortunately, the other Third Circuit Court of Appeals judges disagreed with Alito’s callous approach.
• In Nathanson v. Medical College of Pennsylvania, Alito wanted to deny a court hearing to a woman who claimed the school reneged on promises to provide her with special seating and other accommodations for her disabilities. Alito’s fellow Third Circuit judges said the standard of evidence that Alito wanted her to meet was so restrictive that “few if any cases would survive” motions to dismiss.
• In Sabree v. Houstoun, Medicaid recipients challenged Pennsylvania's failure to provide community-based intermediate care facilities for individuals with mental retardation. In a precedent-shattering verdict, the trial court ruled that the recipients had no right to go to court to enforce the requirements of the Medicaid Act. The Third Circuit reversed that ruling, declaring that they did. In Alito’s opinion, however, he noted that "the analysis and direction of the District Court may reflect the direction that future Supreme Court cases in this area will take..." This raises an ominous possibility for the direction of Alito’s Supreme Court.
• In Adapt v. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Alito held that a federal agency could not be sued for failing to enforce its own regulations on making housing accessible and adaptable for people with disabilities – even though HUD officials had admitted widespread compliance problems.
• In Doe v. National Board of Medical Examiners, Alito’s narrow reading of the Americans with Disabilities Act allowed the board to “flag” the test score of a candidate who had received accommodations during the licensing exam because of his multiple sclerosis. Such flags raise the likelihood of discrimination. Congress meant the ADA to cover broad circumstances and did not spell out every specific practice that it might prohibit.
Many more cases illustrate Judge Alito’s disregard for the claims of Americans with disabilities, and we invite you to examine them yourselves: Chittister v. Department of Community & Economic Development, Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, Helen L. v. DiDario, Three Rivers Center for Independent Living v. Housing Authority of Pittsburgh, and Katekovich v. Team Rent A Car of Pittsburgh, Inc.
These cases and others indicate that Alito’s confirmation would put at risk the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); the Olmstead et al v. L.C. decision against institutionalization; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act; the Fair Housing Amendments Act; the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); and other laws and precedents of great importance to people with disabilities.
For these reasons, a coalition of hundreds of national, state and local organizations concerned with these rights has united to oppose Judge Alito’s nomination. They include ADAPT, the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Judge David Bazelon of the Center for Mental Health Law, the Disabled Action Committee, the National Association of People with AIDS, the National Association of Rights Protection and Advocacy, the National Council on Independent Living, The Polio Society, the World Association of Persons with Disabilities and many more.
Please consider an editorial joining with these Americans in speaking out against the nomination of Samuel A. Alito to the Supreme Court. We would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
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