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Harris Poll finds nation supports courthouse access -- do Supreme Court judges?
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Mar. 23, 2004 -- Most people believe that "states should be required to make courthouses and other public buildings accessible to people with disabilities," according to a nationwide Harris Poll of 3,378 adults surveyed online between January 19 and 28.

This is heartening news. It relates to a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Justices might very well rule the opposite way.

The case, known as Tennessee v. Lane and Jones, was filed by George Lane, Beverly Jones and two others, all of whom were denied access to courtrooms on the second floors of buildings lacking elevators. They argued that Tennessee has an obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act to make courtrooms accessible. (Read more about the case from our Dec. 23 E-Letter.)

In oral arguments before the Court Jan. 13, Tennessee argued that it has immunity from suits of this type. The Tennessee Attorney General argued that Congress did not have the authority to subject the state of Tennessee to suit. A number of other states joined Tennessee in arguing that states should not be bound by the ADA. The New York Times's Adam Cohen's editorial on the case makes the issues clear -- it's online at (free registration required).

The Court ruling in the case could come any day now -- the Justices will have to rule on it by the end of June.

Humphrey writes, "When this sample of all adults was presented with two arguments for each side in the case, they almost all agreed with the arguments against the states. The arguments for the states were rejected by large majorities but were accepted by larger minorities:

  • A 94 percent majority of all adults agrees that "any system which forces someone to leave his or her wheelchair and crawl up stairs to get to a courthouse is totally unacceptable."
  • An almost equally massive 93 percent majority agrees that "as private businesses are required by law to make offices, workplaces, restaurants, theaters, and transportation systems accessible to wheelchairs, state governments should also be required to do so."

Read the compete poll results.

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