1. Minnesota State Prisons Discriminate Against Multiple Deaf Inmates

    February 27, 2018

    Saint Paul, MN – Five Deaf individuals served a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Corrections on February 26, 2018 for violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act for disability discrimination and retaliation.

    Plaintiffs Brian Rinkel, Kevin Adams, and Michael Sherman are persons currently being held as inmates in Minnesota state prisons operated by the Minnesota Department of Corrections (MN DOC).  Plaintiff Eric Jaeger is a person who, until October 2017, was held as an inmate in Minnesota state prisons operated by the Minnesota Department of Corrections.  All of the Plaintiffs are persons who are deaf. Tiffany Gagner is the fiance to Brian Rinkel.  She is also deaf.

    The Minnesota Department of Corrections failed to provide Plaintiffs with full and equal access to the services, programs and activities that it provides to other inmates in Minnesota state prison facilities.  Among other services, it has failed to provide Plaintiffs equal access to telephone communications with friends and family, confidential telephone communication with legal counsel, access to educational and recreational programs Defendant provides through JPay Tablets it provides to inmates; and everyday announcements and notifications the DOC makes to all inmates.

    For approximately two years, Defendant responded to Plaintiffs’ complaints concerning the barriers to equal telephone communications at the prisons by telling Plaintiffs and other advocates for and representatives of people who are deaf in Minnesota that it will install video communication services in all state prisons in Minnesota.  However, during this period, Defendant did not take adequate actions to provide video telecommunications services Plaintiffs could use while Defendant negotiated a final contract with a video telecommunications vendor and installed the video communication system.

    Defendant finally made video communication devices available in some Minnesota prisons beginning in approximately November – December 2017.  Defendant made video communication devices available for inmates at MCF – Faribault beginning in approximately December 2017, and at MCF – Lino Lakes beginning in approximately January 2018.  Defendant still has not made video communication devices available at MCF – Rush City, MCF – Stillwater or other Minnesota state prisons.

    Plaintiff Tiffany Gagner, a woman who is deaf, is the fiancé of Brian Rinkel.  Defendant’s failure to provide Brian Rinkel with an effective video communications service has deprived Ms. Gagner of equal access to and benefits from Defendant’s prison telephone service by denying her the ability to have an effective communication with Mr. Rinkel, using their primary language (ASL).

    Plaintiffs bring this action pursuant to the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) (Minn. Stat. § 363A.12).  They bring this action to obtain all damages declaratory relief and injunctive relief provided by the law.  Plaintiffs also seek to recover statutory attorney’s fees incurred in bringing this action.

    The Minnesota Disability Law Center is [insert[

    Gilbert Law PLLC is a Minnesota civil rights law firm with ASL fluent attorneys committed to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities.

    CONTACTS:

    Roderick Macpherson

    Justin Page

    Heather M. Gilbert, Gilbert Law PLLC, 651-340-9642 heather@gilbertlawpllc.com

  2. Ensuring Your Future: Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan

    In a 2016 Gallup Study, only 44% of adults reported having a Will or Trust in place to direct what will happen with their estate after they pass away. For the other 66% of American adults who do not have a Will or Trust, there are many possible reasons for this including: people thinking that drafting an estate plan will cost too much money; being too busy with everyday life; or thinking that they either do not have anything worth leaving to their families or that their families will know what to do with their things after they pass away.

    Similarly, even for the 44% of adults who report having a Will or Trust, a majority of those individuals admitted that their estate planning documents have not been updated in the last five years. Even more troubling, most adult children are unaware if their parents even have an estate plan and would be unable to find such documents if they did exist.

    Both those without an estate plan and those with an out-of-date estate plan are exposed to serious potential troubles down the line unless they have attorneys draft their estate plan or update their currently out-of-date estate plan. Regardless of the many reasons to put it off, creating or updating your estate plan is a very important task for everyone to do. The dedicated team of experienced estate planning attorneys at Gilbert Law can help you plan ahead and help you create or update your estate plan without stress or a large price tag.

    Furthermore, the number of reasons to create or update your estate plan far outnumber the reasons to continue to put it off, including:

    1. Giving You & Your Loved Ones Peace of Mind

    First and foremost, having an estate plan in place gives you and your loved ones a peace of mind knowing that your property, money, and more importantly your children, are taken care of according to your wishes. Wills and Trusts ensure that your wishes are carried out legally and efficiently. A Will or Trust allows you to clearly articulate how you wish for your property to be divided, your designation for a personal representative to carry out your wishes as provided in your Will or Trust, and ultimately makes the probate process easier and less expensive for your family and loved ones after you have passed away.

    1. Ensuring Your Children Are Cared for By Someone of Your Choice

    Of the most importance, having a Will in place allows you to name a legal guardian for your children if you were to unexpectedly die. Even if you do not have a large amount of money or valuable possessions, if you were to die without having a will in place, the legal system will appoint a guardian to care for your children whom you would not like to care for your children. Deciding who to appoint as guardian of your children and ultimately acting as a child’s guardian is a huge responsibility that should not be taking lightly. You should choose a guardian as if you are selecting a parent for your child. By having a Will in place, you can ensure that the right person will be your children’s guardian if necessary instead of leaving it to chance in the legal system.

    1. Protecting Your Blended Family

    Additionally, having a proper Will and Trust in place ensures that you can protect your blended family. As divorces become increasingly common in today’s world, more and more people now have blended families as a result. However, if you have step-children that you would like to inherit from your estate, unless your will or trust specifically identifies them and explicitly includes them, they could be left out from an inheritance. Alternatively, if you remarry after having children, if you die before your new spouse, without a proper Will and Trust in place, it is possible that your new spouse could receive all of your assets, and then they could decide to leave it all to someone else when he or she dies instead of to your children. As a result, your children from a previous relationship could be excluded and ultimately never receive an inheritance from you.

    By having a proper Will or Trust in place that accounts for your unique family situation, you can ensure that everyone in your blended family is properly accounted for and protected.

    1. Providing You an Opportunity to Give to Charity

    Having a Will or Trust also provides you an opportunity to give to your favorite charity as part of your estate plan. Without a Will or Trust that explicitly accounts for providing a portion of your estate to a designated charity of your choice, nothing from your estate can pass onto them after you pass away. By having a Will or Trust in place, you can ensure that you can leave a lasting legacy and impact your larger community.

    1. Avoiding Unnecessary Fights in Court

    Finally, having a proper Will and Trust in place before you die can help avoid unnecessary fights in probate court among your loved ones after you pass away. Unnecessary fighting among family members in probate court over your estate not only is likely to result in expensive attorneys’ fees and court costs for your love ones, but also usually results in unnecessary stress and a lasting discord that can ruin families. Having a Will or Trust in place that is drafted by an experienced estate planning attorney can help limit such needless litigation and help ensure your family’s future emotional and financial well-being.

     

    The reality is that planning for and drafting your estate documents in advance goes a long way to making things easier for everyone, regardless of age or income. It is never too early to start getting your ducks in a row and is something that will give you peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be followed and that a burden from your family will be lifted.

                The attorneys of Gilbert Law have over 10 years of combined experience of helping blended families meet their estate planning needs. Contact us or call our office today at (651) 340-9642 to schedule an appointment to discuss your estate planning needs or click here to register to attend Gilbert Law’s Estate Planning Workshop on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, to receive a discount on drafting your estate planning documents.

     

    PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT ESTATE PLANNING 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.

  3. Creating Your Legacy: An Estate Planning Workshop

    Come and learn all about how Gilbert Law can help you with drafting your Will or Trust, Health Care Directive, and Power of Attorney and earn a discount toward your estate plan with our firm!

    Tuesday, March 13, 2018

    7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

    Lexington Park

    2131 Lexington Ave. N.

    Roseville, MN 55113

    Call (651) 340-9642 or visit

    https://www.eventbrite.com/e/creating-your-legacy-an-estate-planning-workshop-tickets-43353622853 to register

  4. Fairview Health Services Agrees to Settlement in Discrimination Lawsuit by Deaf Couple & State of Minnesota

    Today, Julie and Matthew Svatos and the Department of Human Rights agreed to settle their lawsuit against Fairview Health Services for deaf discrimination against its patient Julie and her husband Matthew Svatos.  The State of Minnesota, Department of Human Rights along with the Svatoses, represented by Gilbert Law, filed suit last year against Fairview’s Hibbing Hospital because its staff failed to provide adequate sign language interpreters to communicate with the Svatoses when they sought medical care for the birth of their firstborn child.

    After the Svatos child was born, Fairview left Mr. Svatos, without any effective means of communicating with the doctors and healthcare providers who were caring for his wife and newborn daughter over a three-day period. The Svatoses’ child was born with medical complications and underwent several tests and examinations when it was 1-day old, which Mr. Svatos was unable to access. Despite repeated requests for an interpreter, Fairview repeatedly failed to provide an interpreter, and instead tried to use Mrs. Svatos, who was still recovering from giving birth, to facilitate all communication for her husband. Mr. Svatos was unable to effectively communicate with Fairview’s medical staff and could not fully participate in the testing conducted on their newborn, information about the results from the doctors, and all of the other communications by nurses and specialists caring for his wife and newborn.

    After many months of litigation and negotiations with Fairview, this case has now been resolved. In addition to a confidential monetary payment to the Svatoses, Fairview has agreed to implement several improvements to its policies and procedures for deaf and hard of hearing patients and companions, including the following:

    1. Fairview will revise its Interpreter Services policy to provide on-site, qualified sign language interpreters to deaf patients and/or deaf companions.
    2. Fairview will only rely on Video Relay Interpreting (“VRI”) technology until an on-site, qualified sign language interpreter arrives.
    3. Fairview will conduct annual training regarding the provision of auxiliary services, such as Video Relay Interpreting (“VRI”), for all employees who are responsible for providing VRI.
    4. Fairview will provide training on Interpreter Services and auxiliary aids as part of its new employee orientation for all hospital-based nursing staff.
    5. Fairview will add to the annual Required Learning training that providing auxiliary services also extends to companions of patients, not just the patients themselves.
    6. Fairview will provide bi-annual reports to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights twice a year regarding its provision of auxiliary aids and services to deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.

    Fairview’s agreement to modify and implement these changes to its policies and procedures as part of this settlement agreement will also apply to any hospitals that Fairview will acquire through its impending merger with HealthEast in the near future.

    The monetary payment that Fairview paid to the Svatoses as part of its settlement of this lawsuit is confidential.

    Federal and state law require all places of public accommodations, such as hospitals like Fairview, to provide and ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing using American Sign Language interpreters. Failing to do so is discrimination based on disability.

    The Svatoses’ lawsuit was one of three deaf discrimination cases against Fairview Health Services over the past two years. 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.

    “This settlement with Fairview represents an important milestone for the Minnesota Deaf community.” States Heather Gilbert of Gilbert Law PLLC, a law firm in Minnesota with ASL fluent attorneys. “In light of the multiple lawsuits against Fairview over the years for allegations of same or similar deaf discrimination, and as one of Minnesota’s largest healthcare networks and providers, it is encouraging to see Fairview make these necessary changes to its policies and procedures, and begin to take the right steps toward providing equal access to healthcare for all Minnesotans.”

    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.

  5. How to Avoid Parenting Time Drama Over the Holidays

    With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day all occurring within a short time span, the holiday season usually adds a whole different layer of difficulties and headaches for divorced parents when it comes to parenting time schedules this time of year. Whether it is trying to find a time to visit with grandparents, family and friend visiting from out of town, holiday parties and events, the multitude of church and school programs, or simply figuring out child care during the children’s holiday break from school, the holiday season easily amplifies the usual difficulties that accompany parenting time schedules.

    It is important, however, to remain calm and follow some simple tips to help minimize unnecessary stress and tension between you and your ex, and ensure that your children get the most out of this time of year.

    1. Put Your Children First.

    The first question you should ask yourself when setting up plans and vacations around the holidays should be, “How would my children like to celebrate this time?” Children love this time of year and look forward to spending time with both parents and extended family. Your children’s needs should be first and foremost. Be willing not only to be flexible and supportive, but also be overly accommodating to your children’s need to include both parents, such as allowing more phone calls to your ex to share excitement over the holidays or simply because the children feel anxious or homesick.

    The key is to remember that you need to think of what is in your children’s best interest, even if it might conflict with what would make you personally happy. The holidays are a very important time of year for your children, so you should strive to do everything in your power to ensure your children’s happiness and keep out any unnecessary stress and strife.

    1. Plan to Be Flexible & Cooperative.

    Many parenting time plans contain agreements for the holidays that generally divide up the holidays equally between both parents on an alternating yearly schedule. Usually Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are considered two separate holidays (the same is true for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day). So for example, while one parent is awarded Christmas Eve (and the overnight) one year and the other parent is awarded Christmas Day, the schedule is usually switched the following year.

    There are times, however, when it is in the best interest of your children and your co-parenting relationship with your ex to allow some flexibility or a slight change to the parenting time schedule if both parties agree. Remember that your children and their needs come first. The goal during the holiday season is to make arrangements that satisfy everyone (especially your children) as much as possible, and that will not trigger an unnecessary dispute resulting in going back to court. Therefore, when it comes to modifying parenting time plans during the holiday season, we always tell our clients to choose their battles wisely and really consider if the fight is  worth it. Remember that the door swings both ways, and you might appreciate a return of the favor one day.

    1. If It is Necessary, Don’t Wait to Fight the Right Battles.

    With everything stated in No. 2 in mind, there are times where the right battles do occur, and the other parent is being unreasonable or not putting the children’s best interests first. If you believe that there will be a problem with this during the holidays, it is important that you take steps to resolve this issue now, and talk to an attorney well in advance so that there will be sufficient time to negotiate a resolution or go to court if necessary. Courts are closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day and their calendars typically fill up weeks in advance. If you wait too long before reaching out to an attorney, you risk the possibility that the court may not be able to help you in time.

    1. Coordinate Gift Giving.

    Share your children’s wish lists and coordinate gift giving to ensure not only that your children do not receive duplicate gifts, but that both parents also feel included and share the overall costs of the gifts. As stated before, the more cooperative and easy-going Mom and Dad are during this time of year, the more your children can relax and enjoy this special time of year and part of their lives with both of you.

    Resist the temptation to turn the holiday into a competition to one-up your ex for the best presents, activities, or vacations. In the end, it doesn’t help anyone. Instead, when shopping for presents or planning vacations, think of ways to mindfully include the other parent. For example, you could consider joining forces with your ex to buy one bigger present for your child that comes from both of you. Not only would this avoid turning the holidays into a competition, but it would also tell your child that even though the two of you are no longer married, you will both always be there for them.

    1. Make New Traditions.

    For many families, the holidays are entrenched with traditions. After a divorce, however, it may be too emotionally difficult or even impossible to continue following those traditions. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have new family traditions now. Instead, take this time to make new traditions with your children.

    Ultimately, the holidays are about taking time out of our normal, everyday lives to celebrate and spend time with our loved ones. Get creative and come up with new traditions to follow that will be positive and happy experiences for you and your children.

     

    We hope that you will not only find these tips useful during the holidays, but also throughout the year. With the right mindset, both you and your children will enjoy the holidays and look forward to celebrating them again next year.

    To discuss any concerns about your parenting time schedule during the holidays or any other time of the year, do not hesitate to contact us at (651) 340-9642 or (651) 964-2024 (videophone).

     

    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.

     

  6. Requesting Accommodations: Protecting Your Rights

    Whether you need an accommodation at work or for a planned event, how you request an accommodation can have a huge impact when it comes to protecting your rights. There are several common “pitfalls” that individuals in need of accommodations frequently fall trap to, which not only usually sets them up to not receive their requested accommodation, but also prevents them from fully protecting and enforcing their rights.

    With that in mind, here is a list of tips that you should follow when requesting an accommodation:

    1. Make Your Request Known. Do not assume that others know what accommodations you need or know the best method of communication with you even if you think that it is obvious, such as being deaf or hard-of-hearing.

    Remember: Only You Know the Best Method and Accommodation for You!

    1. Make Your Requests in Writing. Whether it is by email, text, letters, or hand-written notes, it is important to make your request for any accommodations in writing, if possible, so that you have evidence of to whom you made a request, when you made a request, and that in fact you did make a request.
    2. Give Advanced Notice. If possible, try to give at least two-weeks’ notice of your request. This is especially important for planned events at which you need an accommodation.
    3. Follow Up in Writing. Always follow up and/or confirm your request in writing, such as through email, text, letters, or hand-written notes. Do not wait until the last moment to follow up. Rather, you should follow up and/or confirm a few days before you need the accommodation for the planned event.
    4. Keep All Communications. The most critical piece is to keep copies of all of your written communications requesting an accommodation. Keep copies of your initial written request, your follow up written communication, and any written response from the person or entity to whom you made your request.

    If you think that you have been discriminated or retaliated against for requesting an accommodation, contact us here for a phone consultation at no charge. We look forward to fighting for you, enforcing your rights, and bringing you justice.

    PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT DISCRIMINATION AND/OR RETALIATION 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.

  7. The Necessity of Wills & Trusts for Blended Families

    As divorces become increasingly common in today’s world, more and more people now have blended families as a result. Blended families can be defined in a wide variety of ways including, but not limited to, families with divorced parents, half-siblings, step-siblings, remarried parents, and deceased parents. Because not every blended family is going to look like the Brady Bunch, there are numerous aspects of having a blended family that can create challenges. Due to these challenges and complicated circumstances, it is critical that people with blended families know their options under the law and have an estate plan in place.

    Thankfully, with the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney, many issues can be avoided through open conversations and careful, intentional planning to create an estate plan that considers the unique aspects and dynamics of your family situation to alleviate most of your concerns and allow you to focus your time and energy on your loved ones.

    What Is the Issue?

    There are many issues that can arise if you do not have a proper estate plan in place that accounts for the specific circumstances of a blended family. Estate planning involves anticipating, considering, and planning for everything that could happen in the world of “What If,” which is the hypothetical world were everything that you hope or think won’t happen can happen.

    For example, one common issue that blended families need to consider is that if you are remarried and have children from a previous relationship, a traditional “simple will” that leaves all your assets to your new spouse if he or she survives you, and then divided equally among all your children—including your children from your previous relationship, your step-children, and any children you have with your surviving spouse—likely will not meet your goals because once your surviving spouse receives all the assets, there is nothing preventing him or her from deciding to leave it to someone else when he or she dies. As a result, your children from a previous relationship could be excluded and ultimately never receive an inheritance from you.

    Another issue is that if you have step-children that you would like to inherit from your estate, unless your will or trust specifically identifies them and explicitly includes them, they could be left out from an inheritance. Making provisions in your estate plan for your “children” will not include your “step-children” unless your estate planning documents make that explicitly clear.

    So, What’s the Solution?

    Husbands and wives need to sit down and have an open and honest conversation together about what they want to happen after their death. Avoiding this issue will only cause trouble for your loved ones later, or even fighting in probate court after you are gone. These conversations can be difficult and emotionally-charged, but you will be rewarded in the long run and can avoid even more difficult and emotionally-charged situations down the road. If your children are adults, you may also want to consider including them in these conversations so that everyone understands yours wishes and knows what to expect.

    Then it is critical to sit down with an experienced attorney to determine which estate planning tools will work best for your unique goals and family situation. Whether it is creating a will to ensure that your property passes to the loved ones of your choosing with the right distributions, or a trust to provide for your new spouse while they are alive while simultaneously ensuring that your children end up with some property as well, an experienced attorney will be able to guide you through these decisions and carefully consider and craft an estate plan that is specifically tailored to meet your family’s needs. This type of planning choice takes care of all the family members and proactively plans for the world of “What If.”

    By having an open and honest conversation and working with experienced estate planning attorneys to establish the proper estate planning tools for your unique family will ensure that everyone’s wishes are honored and that all members of your blended family are included and treated respectfully.

     

                The attorneys of Gilbert Law have over 10 years of combined experience of helping blended families meet their estate planning needs. Contact us today at (651) 340-9642 to schedule an appointment to discuss your estate planning needs today, or click here [insert link] to register to attend Gilbert Law’s Estate Planning Workshop on November 4, 2017 to receive a discount on drafting your estate planning documents.

  8. 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.

    ###

    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