1. North Dakota Courts, Police and Jail Agree to Policy Changes for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

    IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    September 22, 2017

     

    North Dakota Courts, Police and Jail Agree to Policy Changes for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

    Jamestown, ND – The North Dakota Supreme Court, Stutsman County and Jamestown Police Department have agreed to make policy changes and pay a settlement for a deaf Bismarck woman who was wrongfully arrested, held in solitary confinement, and made to appear in court without an interpreter.

    In June 2016, the deaf woman filed suit in federal court against the Supreme Court of North Dakota, the North Dakota State Court Administration, the City of Jamestown, County of Stutsman, Chief Judge Gerald VanWalle, and Judge Timothy Ottmar alleging that she was discriminated against on the basis of disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act when she was denied effective communication by law enforcement and the courts. The deaf woman also filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the City of Jamestown and Officer Brian Davis violated her Constitutional rights by arresting her without probable cause when she called 911 seeking assistance.

    Federal law requires all public entities to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. The failure to provide any means of communication is discrimination based on disability.

    As a result of the settlement, Stutson County and Jamestown will implement important improvements to their policies and procedures for interacting with deaf and hard of hearing people, including annual training for officers and deputies, and an on-call American Sign Language (“ASL”) Interpreter system.

    “There can be no justice for deaf and hard of hearing people if law enforcement and the judicial system are not accessible and this agreement ensures full access to justice in this area. Justice should be accessible for all in every part of the country,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf which represented the deaf woman along with Gilbert Law and Stein & Vargas, LLP.

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    Heather Gilbert is an attorney and court-certified sign language interpreter. She is the President of Gilbert Law PLLC, a St. Paul, MN based law firm dedicated to representing the legal rights of disabled and other protected classes experiencing discrimination.

    The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is the nation’s premiercivil rights organization of, by, and for, deaf and hard of hearing individualsin the United States.

    Stein & Vargas, LLP is a civil rights firm based in Washington, D.C.and committed to the principle that all people have full and equal access to all parts of society

    CONTACTS: 

    Heather M. Gilbert, Gilbert Law PLLC

    651-340-9642

    heather@gilbertlawpllc.com

    Marc Charmatz, National Association of the Deaf

    301-587-1788

    marc.charmatz@nad.org

    Mary Vargas, Stein & Vargas, LLP

    202-559-8609

    mary.vargas@steinvargas.com

  2. Welcome Meredith Olsoe, our new Legal Assistant!

     

    We are thrilled to welcome our new legal assistant, Meredith Olsoe. Meredith is a sign language interpreter who recently graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language Interpreting. Prior to accepting this position, Meredith served at Communications Services for the Deaf teaching both American Sign Language and English to students as a second language. Meredith brings extensive knowledge of computer and literacy skills as well as being a master organizer.  She has already proved to be an invaluable addition to Gilbert Law. We are thrilled to have her on board!

    About Meredith: Meredith Olsoe is the legal assistant at Gilbert Law PLLC. She is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of North Central University’s Carlstrom Interpreting program. Her passion for the Deaf Community and her outgoing spirit make her a great addition to Gilbert Law. She works to provide excellent support to both the firm and its clients throughout all aspects of the litigation process. Meredith also handles client intake and all of Gilbert Law’s office logistics. Some of her other hobbies include playing the piano and making music whenever and wherever possible. She and her husband are expecting their first little girl this Christmas!

  3. Wills and Trusts Workshop November 4th! (ASL only)

    Wills and Trusts in ASL: Planning to Pass on Your Legacy

    In this 2-hour presentation, workshop participants will learn about what happens to possessions, property and minor children at time of death with no will according to Minnesota law; discuss the basic purpose of a will, how it works, and how to make changes; and the important role of the Health Care Directive and Power of Attorney Forms to complete your estate plan.  Participants will complete an intake form throughout the workshop to make drafting your will with our ASL attorneys quick and easy.

    Date: Saturday, November 4, 2017

    St. Catherine University

    Mendel Hall, Room 106

    2004 Randolph Avenue

    St. Paul, MN 55105

     

    Seminar: 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 pm

    PRICE: $30.00 per person; $50.00 per couple

    Register Here on Event Brite

     

    Sign Up to draft your estate plan the same day and save 20%:

    20% discount for the first 6 individuals or coupled that sign up to complete their estate plan ONSITE on November 4th! (This is an average savings of $95 for an individual estate plan or $190 savings for a legally married couple).  50% down payment due 30 days prior to event.

    or

    Don’t have time to do your estate plan onsite November 4th?

    If you attend the workshop and complete your forms, Gilbert Law will give you a 10% off discount for your estate plan to be completed at a later date.  Just give us your contact information at the end of the seminar and we can schedule a date for you to come in sometime this fall 2017.  Coupon expires 12/31/2017.

    Register Here!

     

  4. Tips and Tricks: Top Ten Things NOT to Do When You File For Divorce

    Top 10 Things NOT to Do When You File for Divorce

     

    Please be advised that family law cases can be very complex and are unique to your specific situation. The information provided here is not legal advice or a legal opinion. 

    Deciding to file for divorce is not an easy decision that is made lightly. Once you have made the decision to go ahead and get divorced, however, there are certain steps that you can take to better prepare and protect yourself during the divorce process and beyond. This means that there are also actions that people considering filing for or going through a divorce should not do if they want to set themselves up in the best position. With that in mind, here is a list of the top ten tips on what you should avoid when filing for divorce.

    1. Don’t Put Off Gathering Your Financial Documents.

    Divorces require lots of documentation, which can take time to gather. Documents such as paystubs, account statements, mortgages, and car loans are all likely to be relevant to your divorce. Some spouses have bad reactions to being served divorce papers and will make it difficult for you to access documents after you have filed. Save yourself time and potential future headaches by gather all of the documents you will need before you file for divorce.

    2. Don’t Use Your Children as Pawns.

    Divorce is hard on children without their parents using them as pawns to get a “win” in the divorce or pushing them into a tug-of-war over which parent loves them more. Instead, continue to support them emotionally and financially, and love them unconditionally just as before the divorce. Baring extreme circumstance, you and your spouse will likely end up sharing custody of the children. If you and your spouse can come up with a workable arrangement that gives both of you time with the children based on your schedules and your children’s schedules, you will be leaps and bounds ahead of most couples who file for divorce.

    3. Don’t Forget to Change Your Passwords.

    Spouses are often aware of each other’s passwords for things such as email, financial accounts, and social media accounts. With all of the other distractions and circumstances that usually occur when people decide to file for divorce, however, most spouses forget to change their passwords. This could allow the other spouse to easily access all your financial accounts, read your confidential emails to your divorce attorney, or alter your information in these any of these types of accounts without your permission. Besides the embarrassment that this type of access will likely cause, these types of actions could have detrimental effects on your personal life, work life, or divorce proceeding. Therefore, take a proactive approach and be sure to change your passwords right away.

    Also change/make-up odd security questions for the accounts, since your spouse likely knows the answers to the standard questions such as, “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” or “What city were you born in?” If you cannot make-up a question (and sometimes you can’t), then make-up the answer. The computer does not know whether you are telling the truth; rather it is only ensuring that you provide consistent answers.

    4. Don’t Post Compromising Updates or Photos on Social Media

    Think twice before posting a rant about your spouse or posting an update that shows you drinking or engaging in an objectionable activity on social media. During a divorce, your ex-spouse may request that you produce your complete social media profile to use against you in court. We have been involved many case where a person’s Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit post directly contradicted their testimony and ultimately hurt their case.

    5. Don’t Refuse to Negotiate or Mediate a Settlement.

    From a legal prospective, marriages are a business partnership. Therefore, negotiation and mediation are about settling the business end of the marriage. It is better to put your emotions aside, deal with the business issues of the marriage that need to be dealt with, and then address your emotions separately.

    Refusing to be reasonable during divorce settlement negotiations often land you in court, which means that more money is going to your attorney and you end up with far less to negotiate over. Do yourself a favor, save your money and be reasonable during negotiations.

    6. Don’t Expect to Come Away with a Windfall.

    People often do not realize the large impact a divorce will have on their finances. Besides attorneys’ fees and court costs, a divorce means that you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse will have to begin supporting two household on the same income that used to only have to support one, which means that you likely cannot afford to keep your house and all of the cars and all of the accounts and go on big vacations every year. If you were the breadwinner in your family, you might have to pay child support or spousal support. If you were the lower-earning spouse in your family, be prepared that support is likely much less than you originally expect. Either way, both sides will need to make financial adjustments.

    7. Don’t Fight over Things You Don’t Care About.

    It is easy for spouses going through a divorce to look at every item or every decision as a win for only one side or the other. However, this is when things start to backfire for couples, and they end up losing the things that are important to them while keeping things they never use. For example, don’t fight over the power tools you never use or the ugly vase your Great-Aunt Irma gave you as a wedding present, when you care more about fully custody of your children. Keep your eyes on your main goal and a bigger prize rather than sweat the small stuff.

    8. Don’t Forget to Change Your Will & Other Estate Planning Documents.

    Getting divorced does not automatically revoke a will or other estate planning documents, such as power-of-attorney documents or healthcare directives. If you do not want your soon-to-be-ex-spouse from receiving an inheritance from your estate, you need to update your estate planning documents. While you can update these documents at any time, if you die before updating you will, it could cause problems for your family, children, and loved ones in probate court.

    9. Don’t Refuse to See a Therapist

    Divorces are not an easy experience to go through emotionally. Therapists can provide you with the help you need to get through and manage the range of emotions that you will experience when dealing with a divorce. Therefore, it is a good idea to seek help before you become extremely depressed or angry. Therapists can not only provide you with the one-on-one support by being someone to talk to, but can also show you how to relax, teach you how to talk to you children about the divorce, and how to remain calm throughout the divorce proceeding. Critically, however, a therapist can help you figure out how to become self-sufficient and move forward with your life.

    10. Don’t Go Through the Legal Process Alone.

    The legal system can pose many different types of complications for individuals going through the divorce process on their own. It is always a good idea to contact an attorney when contemplating filing for divorce so you do not take certain actions that may negatively affect the divorce proceedings or you later on down the road. Hiring an attorney means that not only will you have someone to help you navigate this system, but that you have someone in your corner advocating on your behalf and protecting your financial estate and your custody rights.

    At Gilbert Law, we work hard on behalf of our clients to protect their assets and rights to parenting time and custody by offering our customers efficient, customized service at reasonable prices. With our help, you will be able to take a step back and see what options are available to you to achieve your goals in order to make the right choice for your family moving forward.

    If you are considering filing for divorce, contact us here for a phone consultation at no charge. We look forward to walking by you on this journey.

    Please be advised that family law cases can be very complex and are unique to your specific situation. The information provided here is not legal advice or a legal opinion. You should not construe any of the information provided here as legal advice or a legal opinion in your case. Furthermore, reading the information provided here does not make you a client of Gilbert Law PLLC. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal issues. No action should be taken in reliance on the information contained in this article and/or its website, and Gilbert Law PLLC disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this article and/or its website to the fullest extent permitted by law.
  5. Recent Discrimination Settlement Agreements Bring Positive Results

    Spring and Summer 2017 have been very successful seasons for Gilbert Law. In the past four months alone, Gilbert Law has:

    • Settled 3 deaf discrimination cases with medical facilities in Minnesota and Wisconsin;
    • Settled 3 employment discrimination cases involving age and gender discrimination; and
    • Settled 1 deaf discrimination case with multiple governmental entities in North Dakota.

    By fighting to end discrimination and oppression on behalf of protected classes throughout the Midwest, we aim to ensure justice and equality for all people.

    We have also expanded our pursuit to end discrimination and safeguard individuals’ rights by not only working hard to end discrimination against Deaf and hard-of-hearing people, but also ending discrimination based on gender, age, and people who are Blind or who have low-vision.

    From settling a multi-plaintiff lawsuit against a Minnesota Fortune 500 Company for gender discrimination to reaching a settlement with a Minnesota school for age discrimination claims, we are excited to continue the fight against discrimination in all forms and seek justice and equality for all.

    Specific Changes Resulting from Settlement Agreements

    Our tireless advocacy and relentless fight for our clients’ rights has not only brought justice to our clients’ personal lives, but has also resulted in changes that will positively impact our community and the lives of people with disabilities at large. Here are just a few examples of the impacts that have directly resulted from our settlement agreements:

    • Lake Region Healthcare in northwestern Minnesota commits to providing on-call ASL interpreters for deaf patients and companions and to is committed to not depending on family members to interpret.  LRHC also promises to provide training to its employees on working with deaf and hard of hearing patients,
    • A Wisconsin healthcare system commits to providing qualified on-call, on-site ASL interpreters for deaf patients and companions and to ensuring its deaf patient receives onsite interpreters for future appointments.
    • The Jamestown Police Department and Stutsman County Jail in North Dakota commits to providing qualified ASL interpreters for deaf or hard-of-hearing inmates while in their custody and during court hearings, and allowing deaf or hard-of-hearing inmates to use videophones and accessible phones equal to the access hearing inmates receive to place calls.

    Contact our firm if you are experiencing discrimination or barriers when accessing your employment, healthcare or legal situations.  651-340-9642 or complete our Contact Us Form here.

  6. THIRD MINNESOTA FAMILY FILES DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION SUIT AGAINST FAIRVIEW HEALTH SERVICES

    Couple alleges Fairview’s Range Hospital in Hibbing, MN repeatedly failed to meet its obligation to ensure deaf father could communicate effectively with physicians caring for his wife and newborn daughter.

    HIBBING, MINNESOTA — A Hibbing, MN couple joined a disability discrimination suit initially filed by the State of Minnesota, through Commissioner Kevin Lindsay of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, against Fairview Health Services and its hospital located in Hibbing, Minnesota, Range Regional Health Services (d/b/a Range Regional Medical Center). Their complaint alleges Fairview left a deaf father of a newborn without any means of communicating with the doctors and healthcare providers who were caring for his wife and newborn daughter over a three-day period.  Their newborn was born with medical complications and underwent several tests and examinations, to which the deaf father was not able to access communications.  For instance, during the family’s admission at Fairview, one of the tests subjected the couple’s days-old newborn daughter to radiation.  The deaf father, however, did not understand the purpose of the test, or that his newborn would be exposed to radiation.  During testing for an additional complication, the child was diagnosed with a significant medical issue, and the deaf father could not learn information from the providers or ask questions about the diagnosis.

    This lawsuit is one of three active deaf discrimination cases against Fairview Health Services, two of which are presently filed in the United States District of Minnesota.  In 2004, Fairview entered into a public consent decree with the United States Department of Justice and the State of Minnesota, in which it promised to provide effective communication for deaf patients and deaf companions, and to not rely on family members to interpret.

    The father—who is one of the Plaintiffs in this case—is completely deaf and communicates primarily in American Sign Language (“ASL”), which is a distinct language from English with its own syntax, structure, and culture. He and his wife, also a Plaintiff, allege that Fairview failed to provide an ASL interpreter on multiple occasions when he accompanied her to prenatal exams and while he was present with his days-old daughter during her treatment for serious complications. Despite repeated requests for such an accommodation and a note in the wife’s medical file documenting that her husband required an interpreter, Fairview repeatedly failed to provide one, and instead relied on the recovering wife to facilitate communication. 

    Based on their treatment, emotional distress, and with knowledge of their legal rights, the couple filed a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in 2013. The State of Minnesota found probable cause that discrimination occurred and subsequently filed suit against Fairview and its subsidiary in 2016 after conciliation with Fairview was unsuccessful. 

    In the Complaint, the State of Minnesota and the couple allege that Fairview failed to offer and provide the deaf father with effective communication, and therefore, provided the couple with subpar medical care by forcing them to focus not only on their family’s medical concerns, but also with gaps in communication between the deaf father and Fairview’s healthcare providers.  In response to the State of Minnesota investigative findings, the couple joined the case separately so that they may also pursue claims under federal law, which are outside the State of Minnesota’s authority to pursue on their behalf.

    Heather Gilbert, of Gilbert Law PLLC, counsel for the couple, states, “Discovering your newborn has medical complications is hard enough emotionally, even when you can hear and understand the doctors.  It’s quite surprising to me that Fairview didn’t get an interpreter for those interactions, and even more shocking to learn they relied on the recovering mother to interpret, who had just given birth.  Practically speaking, her hands were tied up nursing and caring for their newborn.  She wasn’t there to perform an interpreting service so that Fairview could communicate with their newborn’s father and her husband.”

    Under the authority of Commissioner of the Department of Human Rights, Kevin Lindsey, the State of Minnesota filed the suit, captioned Minnesota Department of Human Rights v. Range Regional Health Services et al., in St. Louis County Court, the county where the hospital is located.

     Fairview is a large chain of hospitals and clinics that employs over 20,000 staff members and 3,000 physicians. It is currently named as a defendant in at least two other disability discrimination suits brought by a deaf patient and/or deaf family members. 

    Gilbert Law PLLC is a civil rights law firm committed to representing protected classes so they have full and equal access to all parts of society.  Heather Gilbert may be reached at 651-340-9642.