October 13, 2000
The Honorable Phil Gramm
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510-4302
Dear Senator Gramm:
This letter is in response to your inquiry on behalf of Judge Arthur Ware, Potter County, Texas. Judge Ware seeks information about the availability of federal financial assistance for capital improvements to Potter County court facilities to promote compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
Staff of the Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, researched potential sources of funding in response to Judge Ware's request. No federal domestic assistance programs specifically earmarked for accessibility renovations and security upgrades to state and local court buildings were found. Some state and local courts have, nonetheless, been successful over the years in their efforts to obtain federal assistance for capital improvements.
Funding sources have been innovative and wide-ranging according to Mr. Bob Tobin of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). They have included such methods as funding associated with federal agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency following disaster-related damage, urban-renewal funding through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), "impact funds" associated with a significant "federal presence" in the local community, "move-ins" to vacated federal facilities, and so forth. In 1995, the State Justice Institute published a study entitled "A Court Manager's Guide to Court Facility Financing", authored by Mr. Tobin. It describes creative financing efforts undertaken by local court systems. A copy of the guide may be available from the offices/libraries of the Texas State Court Administrator. It can also be ordered directly from the NCSC Publications Catalog available on the web (Enclosure 1).
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently funding an NCSC office to provide technical assistance on architectural standards and other resources to state and local courts to help them comply with the ADA. Information on this project is available through:
Ms. Deanna Parker
Project Director, ADA Resources
National Center for State Courts
300 Newport Avenue
Williamsburg, Virginia 23185
Telephone (800) 616-6164 Ext.1863
(757) 564-2051 (Fax)
(757) 259-1845 (TDD)
The Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) administers criminal justice formula grants and HUD administers federal aid to promote community development under its Community Development Block Grants Program. We understand that funding for facility renovations of state and local courts may be eligible for consideration under these programs. Information about these block grant programs may be obtained directly from these agencies by contacting HUD and BJA respectively at:
Mr. Cardell Cooper
Office of Community Planning and Development
Washington, D.C. 20410
Telephone (202) 708-2690
Ms. Nancy Gist
Bureau of Justice Assistance
Office of Justice Programs
810 7th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20531
Telephone (202) 514-6278
An additional resource that Judge Ware might find useful is entitled "Opening the Courthouse Door; An ADA Access Guide for State Courts", published by the American Bar Association's Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law in 1992. This guide contains a chapter with suggestions on funding resources that may be helpful to provide access to the courts for persons with disabilities. We could not provide a copy of this copyrighted material but it is available by contacting:
American Bar Association
Commission on Mental and Physical
740 15th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005
Telephone (800) 988-2221
Refer to ABA Product Code No. 344-0022
We also suggest a review of programs listed in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance now available on the web (Enclosure 2). It is the most comprehensive summary of financial assistance available from the federal government and includes information about application procedures for both block (formula) and discretionary grants. According to Ms. Parker of NCSC, it is possible that courts may qualify for funding under the Department of Transportation's (DOT) block grant transportation programs, as well as those administered by HUD and BJA. DOT's block grants are listed in the Catalog.
With respect to Judge Ware's request about obtaining additional drug enforcement agents and border patrol personnel in his area, we have referred his correspondence directly to the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Naturalization Service for their review.
I hope this information is useful in responding to your constituent. Please do not hesitate to contact the Department if we can be of assistance in other matters.
Bill Lann Lee
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division