Juror Sues Over Courthouse Access Problems
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 28, 2006
CRESTVIEW, FLORIDA--Wayne Smith says that during a recent weeklong murder trial, he often became the focus of attention in the courtroom -- even though he was just a juror.
Smith, 62, who has used a wheelchair since he was 19, told the Pensacola News Journal that he just wanted to do his civic duty and "blend into the background", but that the court's accessibility problems caused him to be "disruptive to the entire process."
"I was the show," he said. "Everybody was watching me get situated before we could start."
In a lawsuit he has filed against Okaloosa County, Smith claims he had to park far from the building because the jurors' parking lot had no ramp, and negotiate through 90-degree turns and then be helped up steps to get to the jury box.
Smith is asking that the county be ordered to make the building accessible under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and Florida laws, and to pay him unspecified damages for "severe emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of self-esteem, embarrassment, humiliation and loss of enjoyment of life."
"The ADA law affected more people than any other civil rights law," Smith said. "The only thing anybody with disabilities wants is just the same basic human rights as anyone else."
In May 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individuals can sue states for failing to provide access to the courts. But that ruling, in Tennessee v. Lane et al., meant that Congress had the authority to order states to make sure citizens with disabilities were not denied their rights to "equal protection under the laws" as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, rather than on a juror's right to sue over accessibility problems.
"Juror sues Okaloosa over poor wheelchair access" (Pensacola News Journal)
"High Court Upholds Access To State Courts: State of Tennessee v. Lane et al" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)