ADA "Sheriff" Banned From Courts
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 20, 2004
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA--A federal judge has ordered a paraplegic California man to stop filing lawsuits against businesses using the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
On December 9, U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie called Jarek Molski a "vexatious litigant" who files discrimination suits "maliciously and without good cause".
Since 1998, Molski, who calls himself "The Sheriff", has filed more than 400 lawsuits over accessibility problems in restaurants, wineries and other California businesses. The law school graduate uses a wheelchair and claims he is a public servant that is simply trying to make businesses comply with the 14-year-old federal anti-discrimination law.
Most of the businesses that Molski has sued decided to settle their cases out of court for between $20,000 and $35,000, according to his attorney, Thomas Frankovich.
Judge Rafeedie said that amounted to "systematic extortion" and ordered Molski to stop filing ADA lawsuits without first getting permission from a judge.
In his decision, Rafeedie pointed to three suits Molski filed against restaurants, each claiming he injured his shoulder while using their restrooms on May 20, 2003. The judge wrote that this was "highly unusual, to say the least."
The case that came before Rafeedie involved a claim Molski lodged against the Mandarin Touch restaurant in Solvang, alleging he injured his hand because the entrance to the restroom was too narrow.
Molski's methods have been controversial even within disability law circles. Most acknowledge that the ADA needs to be enforced, but criticize plaintiffs and attorneys that appear to make a career out of "intimidating" business owners to force them to comply.
Others believe that the law will only be effective if citizens deal with business owners directly rather than waiting for governments to enforce it.
"To label someone a vexatious litigant because he has a disability, and these restaurants are out of compliance, really discourages someone from enforcing their rights," said Eve Hill, a visiting professor at Loyola Law School and executive director of the Western Law Center for Disability Rights.
Hill called Rafeedie's ban "outrageous", adding that "whether he is doing it right does not justify barring him from the courts" and making him "hang a 'kick me' sign around his neck."
"Disabled plaintiff labeled 'vexatious'" (Los Angeles Times via Contra Costa Times)
"Small Business Cheer Molski Case Ruling" (Pacific Coast Business Times)