Settlement Agreement Between The United States Of America And The Shelby County, Tennessee Court Of General Sessions

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE COMPLAINT NUMBER 204-72-20


  1. This matter was initiated by a complaint filed under title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. ァァ 12131-12134, with the United States Department of Justice (the Department) against the Shelby County, Tennessee Court of General Sessions (Court). The complaint alleges that in a small claims proceeding involving a defendant who is deaf and needed real-time transcription services to communicate effectively with the Court, the Court did not provide the real-time transcription service until complainant had appeared on three different dates to litigate the matter. Complainant also alleges that although real-time transcription was offered at the third hearing, the service was inadequate.
  2. The Department is authorized under 28 C.F.R. Part 35, Subpart F, to investigate 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. ァ 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 or from filing civil suit in this matter.
  3. The parties to this Agreement are the United States of America and the Shelby County, Tennessee Court of General Sessions. In order to secure compliance by voluntary means, the parties hereby agree as follows:
  4. The Court does not admit by the signing of this Agreement that its current policies and practices are in violation in any respect with the ADA or its implementing regulation.
  5. The ADA applies to the Court because it is a public entity as defined in title II of the ADA and the title II regulation. 42 U.S.C. ァ 12131 and 28 C.F.R. ァ 35.104
  6. Federal ADA regulations require a public entity to provide effective communication to persons with disabilities, and to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a service, program, or activity conducted by a public entity. 28 C.F.R.ァ 35.160. Such auxiliary aids include, but are not limited to, sign language interpreters, real time translation, and other aids and services.
  7. The subject of this Settlement Agreement is the development of a policy to ensure that communications with a participant, including party, witness, juror, or spectator, who is deaf or hard of hearing, are as effective as communications with others.
  8. The Court has developed a written policy (attached), to provide that in those proceedings where an interpreter or an auxiliary aid such as real-time transcription is required to ensure effective communications with any individual who is deaf or hard of hearing, the Court will, upon reasonable notice, secure the services of a qualified interpreter(s), or provide the proper auxiliary aid.
  9. Beginning on the effective date of this Agreement, the Court will instruct all appropriate Court officials responsible for conducting proceedings to comply with the provisions of this Agreement. The effective date of this Agreement is the date of the last signature below.
  10. Copies of the policy will be provided to members of the public upon request.
  11. This Agreement is a public document. A copy of this document or any information contained in it may be made available to any person. The Court will provide a copy of this Agreement to any person upon request.
  12. 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 a civil action seeking specific performance of the provisions of this Agreement in an appropriate Federal court.
  13. Failure by the Department of Justice 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's right to enforce other deadlines and provisions of this Agreement.
  14. 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 is limited to the facts set forth in the first paragraph, and it does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the ADA or any other Federal law. This Agreement does not affect the continuing responsibility of the Court to comply with all aspects of the ADA.

For Shelby County, Tennessee:
Court of General Sessions:

______________________________      Date: _______________
THOMAS R. STONE, Americans
With Disabilities Act Coordinator,
Shelby County Government, Suite 901
160 North Main Street
Memphis, TN 38138

For the United States:
BILL LANN LEE,
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights

______________________________      Date: _______________
JOHN WODATCH, Chief
RENEE WOHLENHAUS, Deputy Chief
U.S. Department of Justice
Disability Rights Section
P.O. Box 66738
Washington, D.C. 20035-6738

Attachment



POLICY ON INTERPRETATIVE SERVICES AND AUXILIARY AIDS: JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS INVOLVING HEARING IMPAIRED PERSONS
It is the policy of the Shelby County Court that in those proceedings where an interpreter is necessary to ensure effective communication for any party, witness, juror, or spectator who is deaf or hard of hearing, the Shelby County Court shall, upon reasonable notice, secure the services of a qualified interpreter(s). 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. This policy applies in those situations when it is determined that other auxiliary aids and services, such as real-time transcription, are not equally effective means of communication or otherwise unavailable.
Before determining the type of interpreting services to be secured, the Shelby County Court or its designated representative will confer with an individual with a disability regarding his or her mode of communication (i.e., American Sign Language, Signed English, or oral interpreting). The Shelby County Court or its designee will then determine the type of the services, giving primary consideration to the requests of the individual with the disability, and shall ascertain from the individual with the disability the date, time and place where such services will be required. The Shelby County Court at its own expense will then secure an interpreter(s) who is/are capable of providing these services.
Upon the date, place and time noted, and prior to continuing with any proceeding, the Shelby County Court or other designated official will inquire of the individual, through 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 either of those questions are answered in the negative, further efforts will be made by the Shelby County or its designee to acquire a qualified interpreter. If those two questions are answered in the affirmative, the Shelby County Court will ask the interpreter whether he or she will be able to interpret the proceedings. The proceedings will continue unless the interpreter is unable to satisfy the criteria for a qualified interpreter, at which time a qualified interpreter will be obtained.
The Shelby County Court may not require an individual to bring his or her own family members or friends to interpret. In the event the individual chooses to bring his or her own interpreter to any proceeding, the Shelby County Court or its designee will inquire of 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 Shelby County Court and the individual are satisfied that the interpreter is qualified, the Shelby County Court will cover the cost of interpreting services pursuant to the Shelby County Court's fee schedules for such services and the proceedings will continue. Otherwise, the Shelby County Court or its designee will obtain a qualified interpreter.
The Shelby County Court, by and through the Chief Judge, will cause these procedures to be distributed to all judges and staff of the Shelby County Court. Upon request, the coordinator for the Americans with Disabilities Act will be available to answer all inquiries and will obtain sufficient training materials on the requirements for effective communication.
Shelby County Government, by and through Thomas R. Stone, its ADA Coordinator, and successor ADA coordinators, will notify individuals who hearing impaired about the provision of auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective participation, and the procedures available for obtaining them. Shelby County Government will distribute this information through pamphlets, posters and other appropriate means.
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Updated August 6, 2015

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