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Rights advocates to crawl up Supreme Court steps Jan. 13

Jan. 6, 2004 -- Disability rights activists are planning to crawl up the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court at 9 a.m. next Tuesday morning, Jan. 13, the day oral arguments are scheduled to take place in the case Tennessee v. Lane.

"The event is intended to illustrate the humiliation George Lane and others have been forced to endure," says ADAWatch, which announced the event yesterday. Lane, one of the plaintiffs, had to crawl up the stairs to a Tennessee courtroom because the courthouse, like many in Tennessee, was not accessible, in violation of Title 2 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Lane and Beverly Jones sued Tennessee for failing to obey the ADA, whose Title 2 requires access to local and state government services. Both were denied access to courtrooms. Beverly Jones worked as a court reporter; George Lane was a defendant in a criminal case. "The state arrested Lane for 'failure to appear' when he refused to crawl or be carried up the stairs," says the Bazelon Center, one of the many disability rights groups filing amicus briefs in the case.

Lane and Jones filed suit under Title 2 of the ADA in 1998. "The Tennessee Attorney General moved to dismiss the case on sovereign immunity grounds, arguing that Congress did not have the authority to subject the state of Tennessee to suit. The U.S. District Court denied the state's motion and ruled that the case could go forward. The Tennessee Attorney General appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which affirmed the trial court's decision, and again said that the case could proceed. The Tennessee Attorney General then appealed again - this time to the United States Supreme Court. Five years after filing their lawsuit, Lane and Jones have yet to have their day in court," says Bazelon.

The case, says ADAWatch, "questions Congress's authority to enact the ADA under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. . . If the Court does not take this opportunity to uphold Title 2 of the ADA under Section 5, federal disability laws that are just beginning to enable disabled persons to participate in critical facets of American life will be undermined before the goal of full integration has been achieved."

That evening, from 6-7:30 p.m., at the Gewirz Student Center of the Georgetown University School of Law,(12th Floor, 120 F St., NW), a forum of disability rights legal experts is scheduled to "summarize oral arguments and provide insights as to what conclusions savvy observers of the Supreme Court draw from the day's proceedings." For more information call the American Constitution Society at (202) 393-6181 or e-mail

ADA Watch's amicus brief, filed along with Hon. Dick Thornburgh, the National Organization on Disability and the American Association of People with Disabilities is online in PDF form at

For more information:

Jim Ward
ADA Watch






Expert sources

From the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers:

Historical Context of the ADA

ADA definition of disability

Overview of law's structure

The ADA is changing the landscape of America -- commentary

"The ADA changed my life" -- personal stories

The meaning of "disability" under ADA

"A misunderstood law" -- commentary

The ADA Notification Act

Supreme Court ADA decisions:

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