This matter was initiated by a complaint filed under title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. ï½§ 12131-12134, with the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disabilities Rights Section (the "Department"), against the Mason Municipal Court of Warren County, Ohio (the "Court"). The complainant, who was prosecuted on charges of domestic violence, alleges that on December 29, 1997, the Court-secured qualified oral interpreter did not appear. On January 20, 1998, the Court-secured qualified oral interpreter did appear, the complainant pleaded guilty as charged and was sentenced, including an order to pay court costs. By notice from the Court mailed on January 29, 1998, the complainant was charged an "interpreter's fee." The complainant ultimately sought legal representation in order to contest the legality of the interpreter's fee. On February 10, 1998, the Court journalized an Order that no costs were to be collected for interpreter's fees in the case. Pursuant to the provision of the ADA entitled "Alternative Means of Dispute Resolution," 42 U.S.C. ï½§ 12212, the parties have entered into this Settlement Agreement.
The Department is authorized under 28 C.F.R. Part 35, Subpart F, to investigate fully the allegations of the complaint in this matter to determine the compliance of the Court with title II of the ADA and the Department's implementing regulation, issue findings, and, where appropriate, negotiate and secure voluntary compliance agreements. Furthermore, the Attorney General is authorized, under 42 U.S.C. ï½§ 12133, to bring a civil action enforcing title II of the ADA should the Department fail to secure voluntary compliance pursuant to Subpart F. In consideration of the terms of this Agreement as set forth below, the Attorney General agrees to refrain from undertaking further investigation and from filing civil suit in this matter.
The parties to this Agreement are the United States of America and the Court. In order to avoid the burdens and expenses of possible litigation, the parties hereby agree as follows:
- The ADA applies to the Court because it is a public entity as defined in 42 U.S.C. ï½§ 12131.
- Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability in the services, programs, or activities of the Court, including all judicial proceedings.
- Any participant, meaning any party, witness, juror, or spectator, who is deaf or hearing impaired may not be denied an equal opportunity to participate in any proceeding before the Court because of his or her disability or because of the requirement for an interpreter.
- When provision of interpreting services is required to ensure effective participation by an individual who is deaf or hearing impaired, the Court will, upon reasonable notice, secure the services of a qualified interpreter, unless doing so would impose an undue burden. An "undue burden" is a significant difficulty or expense, relative to the operation of the Court's program. For instance, if a spectator were to submit a standing request for sign language interpreters so that he could observe trials on an ongoing basis, the Court may determine that honoring the request would impose an undue burden. In such an instance, the Court would not have to provide qualified sign language interpreters on an ongoing basis, but would have to find the next most effective means of communication for that individual that did not amount to an undue burden for the Court.
- Within 30 days of the effective date of this Agreement, the Court will adopt and implement a written policy, set forth in Exhibit 1, to ensure that the Court will, upon reasonable notice, secure the services of a qualified interpreter to ensure an equal opportunity to participate to any individual who is deaf or hearing impaired.
- The Court, within the same 30 days, will inform and instruct all its employees who are in any way responsible for the conduct of any proceedings to adhere to and comply with the policy.
- Copies of the policy will be provided to members of the public upon request.
- Within 30 days of the effective date of this Agreement, the Court will post in public the following notice, or an equivalent, on any Public Bulletin Boards within the Court building:
- This Agreement is a public document. A copy of this document or any information contained in it may be made available to any person by the Court or the Department on request.
- The Department of Justice may review compliance with this Agreement at any time. If it determines that this Agreement or any requirement thereof has been violated, it may institute civil action seeking specific performance of the provisions of this Agreement in an appropriate Federal court.
- The Department of Justice's failure to enforce this entire Agreement or any provision thereof with respect to any deadline or any other provision herein will not be construed as a waiver of the Department of Justice's right to enforce other deadlines and provisions of this Agreement.
- In the event that the Court fails to comply in a timely manner with any requirement of this Agreement without obtaining sufficient advance written agreement with the Department of Justice as a temporary modification of the relevant terms of this Agreement, the Department will reopen the investigation and pursue under title II or enforce all terms of this Agreement in an appropriate Federal court.
- The effective date of this Agreement is the date of the last signature below.
- This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties on the matters raised herein, and no other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by either party or agents of either party, that is not contained in this written agreement, will be enforceable. This Agreement does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act or any other Federal law. This Agreement does not affect the Court's continuing responsibility to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- This agreement will remain in effect for three years from the effective date of this Agreement, or until full compliance with this Agreement by the Court has been achieved.
In accordance with the requirements of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Mason Municipal Court, Warren County, Ohio does not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability in its services, programs, or activities. In those proceedings where the provision of interpreting services is required to ensure an equal opportunity to participate by any party, witness, juror, or spectator who is deaf or hard of hearing, the Court will, upon reasonable notice, secure the services of qualified interpreter(s).
FOR THE COURT:
Hon. George M. Parker, Judge
Mason Municipal Court
6000 Mason-Montgomery Road
Mason, Ohio 45040
FOR THE UNITED STATES:
RALPH F. BOYD, JR.
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
JOHN L. WODATCH, Chief
SUSAN BUCKINGHAM. REILLY, Deputy Chief
ERIKA WESTRY, Investigative Assistant
ANTHONY NAPOLI, Investigative Assistant
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Disability Rights Section - NYA
Washington, DC 20530
POLICY ON INTERPRETING SERVICES IN MASON MUNICIPAL COURT PROCEEDINGS
INVOLVING INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE DEAF OR HEARING IMPAIRED
It is the policy of the Mason Municipal Court, Warren County, Ohio, that in those proceedings where any party, witness, juror, or spectator, who is deaf or hearing impaired, upon reasonable notice, requests an interpreter in order to ensure an effective means of communication, the Court will, secure the services of a qualified interpreter(s), unless doing so would impose an undue burden. The term "qualified interpreter" means an interpreter who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.
The term "undue burden" means a significant difficulty or expense, relative to the operation of the Court's program. For instance, if a spectator were to submit a standing request for sign language interpreters so that he could observe trials on an ongoing basis, the Court may determine that honoring the request would impose an undue burden. In such an instance, the Court would not be required to provide qualified sign language interpreters on an ongoing basis, but would have to find the next most effective means of communication for that individual that did not amount to an undue burden for the Court.
Before determining the type of interpreting services to be secured, the Court or its designated representative will communicate with an individual with a disability regarding his or her mode of communication (i.e., American Sign Language, Signed English, or oral interpreting). The Court or its designee will then determine the type of the services and the date, time, and place where such services will be required. The Court will then secure an interpreter(s) who is (are) capable of providing these services and negotiate payment terms from appropriate budgeted funds.
Upon the date, place, and time noted, and prior to continuing with any proceeding, the Court will confirm that the interpreter's skills will ensure an adequate and accurate interpretation of the communication of the proceeding, and will consider whether or not the disabled individual believes that the interpreter is qualified and impartial. If the disabled individual manifests any concern about the interpreter's qualifications or impartiality, the Court shall further inquire as to whether the interpreter is qualified and impartial, and shall either confirm the interpreter's qualifications and impartiality on the court's record, or make further efforts to acquire a qualified interpreter, if the Court has reason for concern about the interpreter's qualifications or impartiality. The Court will ask the interpreter whether he or she will be able to interpret the proceedings. The proceedings will go forward unless the interpreter is unable to satisfy the criteria for a qualified interpreter, at which time the matter shall be postponed or continued until a qualified interpreter is obtained.
The Court may not require an individual to bring his or her own family members or friends to interpret. In the event the individual brings his or her own interpreter to any proceeding, the Court or its designee will ask the individual and the interpreter whether the individual is confident that the interpreter's skills will ensure an adequate and accurate interpretation of the communication of the proceeding, and whether or not the individual feels the interpreter is impartial.
If the Court and the individual are satisfied that the interpreter is qualified, the Court will cover the cost of any professional interpreting services and the proceedings will continue. Otherwise, the Court or its designee will obtain a qualified interpreter.
The Court, by and through its Judge, will cause a copy of this Policy to be distributed to any Visiting or Acting Judge, the magistrate(s) and staff of the Court. Upon request, the person identified by the Court to be its coordinator for the Americans with Disabilities Act will be available to answer all inquiries on the requirements for effective communication.
The Court, by and through its Judge, any Visiting or Acting Judge, the magistrate(s) and/or staff will notify individuals who are deaf or hearing impaired about the provision of auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective participation. The Court will distribute this information through pamphlets, posters or other appropriate means, including distributing copies of this Policy.
Notice of the Court's commitment to comply with the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act is to be provided to all parties, witnesses, jurors, and spectators in judicial proceedings in each situation in which the issue is raised.>