Settlment Agreement Between The United States Of America And The County Of Van Buren, Tennessee

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE COMPLAINT NUMBER 204-70-26

BACKGROUND

This matter was initiated by a complaint filed under title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. ァァ 12131-12134, with the United States Department of Justice (Department of Justice) against the County of Van Buren, Tennessee (County). The complaint was received by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, under the authority of 28 C.F.R. Part 35, Subpart F. The complainant alleged that the programs, services, and activities offered in the Van Buren County Courthouse are not accessible to certain persons with mobility impairments, in violation of 28 C.F.R. ァ 35.149. Additionally, the complainant alleged that the County had not appointed an employee responsible to coordinate its efforts to comply with the requirements of title II, as required by 28 C.F.R. ァ 35.107(a).
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 County with title II of the ADA and the Department's implementing title II regulation, to issue findings, and, where appropriate, to 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 a civil suit in this matter.

The parties to this Agreement are the United States of America and the County of Van Buren, Tennessee. The parties hereby agree as follows:


JURISDICTION

  1. The County is a public entity as defined in the Department of Justice's regulation implementing title II. 28 C.F.R. ァ 35.104.
  2. The County owns and operates a courthouse in the City of Spencer, Tennessee.
  3. Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability in the services, programs, or activities of a public entity such as the County. The County may not deny the benefits of, or participation in, its programs, services, and activities located in its courthouse to individuals with disabilities because the courthouse is inaccessible.
  4. Under the ADA, the services, programs, or activities provided in the County's courthouse, when viewed in their entirety, must be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.
  5. Because of architectural barriers, the services, programs, and activities provided in the County's courthouse are inaccessible to, and unusable by, certain individuals with mobility impairments.
  6. The subject of this settlement agreement is a plan to ensure that services, programs, and activities normally provided in the County's courthouse are accessible to persons with disabilities.

ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE COUNTY

  1. An individual has been appointed who will coordinate the efforts of the County to comply with, and carry out its ADA responsibilities, as required by the Department of Justice's regulation implementing title II. 28 C.F.R. ァ 35.107.
  2. The County has adopted the attached written policy providing that whenever an individual with a disability may be required, or chooses, to attend legal or other proceedings that are held in the courtroom located in the County's courthouse, those activities will be readily accessible to that individual.
  3. In its written policy, the County has included procedures requiring that its public meetings be accessible to individuals with mobility impairments.

ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN BY THE COUNTY

  1. Within thirty (30) days of the effective date of this Agreement, the attached policy will be published on two separate occasions in a newspaper of general circulation serving Van Buren County. The notice will include the name and telephone number of the County's ADA coordinator, and will state that "Pursuant to the requirements of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Van Buren County will not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability, in the County's services, programs, or activities."
  2. Within ninety (90) days of the effective date of this agreement, the County will install a closed circuit television system that will allow spectators with mobility impairments to observe County Commission Meetings and court proceedings in an accessible location of the County's courthouse.
  3. Copies of the written policy will be provided to members of the public upon request, and will be prominently displayed on all bulletin boards in the County's courthouse, or any other building where the County has offices providing programs, services, or activities to the public.
  4. The County will post or distribute all notices in the attached relocation policy as prescribed by the policy adopted by the County.
  5. The County agrees to inform all of its employees who are in any way responsible for conducting services, programs, or activities normally held in the County's courthouse, of the requirements set forth in the written policy.

ENFORCEMENT

  1. The Department may review compliance with this agreement at any time.
  2. Failure by the Department to enforce this entire agreement, or any provision thereof, with regard to any deadline, or any other provision herein, will not be construed as a waiver of its right to do so with regard to other deadlines and provisions of this agreement.
  3. This document is a public agreement. A copy of this document, or any information contained in it, may be made available to any person, by the County or the Department, on request.
  4. The effective date of this agreement is the date of the last signature below.
  5. 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.
  6. Any violation of this agreement will be considered a violation of title II of the ADA.
  7. In the event that the government of Van Buren County, Tennessee 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, all terms of this agreement will become enforceable in an appropriate Federal court.
  8. 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 County's continuing responsibility to comply with all aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

For County of Van Buren:

______________________________      Date: _______________
HOUSTON F. HALE
County Executive
County of Van Buren
P.O. Box 217
Spencer, Tennessee 38585


For the United States:

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


ATTACHMENT



POLICY ON ACCESSIBILITY OF MEETINGS AND PROCEEDINGS HELD WITHIN THE VAN BUREN COUNTY COURTHOUSE

The County of Van Buren has adopted the following procedures so that services, programs or activities that are normally provided in an inaccessible location in the Van Buren County Courthouse are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with mobility disabilities.

PUBLIC MEETINGS

    COUNTY MEETINGS -- IN GENERAL

    Public meetings, other than County Commissioners Meetings will be held in a location that is accessible to persons with mobility impairments, such as the Van Buren County Civic Center.

    COUNTY COMMISSIONERS MEETINGS

    If a person with a mobility impairment who is on the Commissioners' agenda makes a request to relocate a proceeding normally held in an inaccessible location in the Van Buren County Courthouse, then either:

    1. The meeting will be relocated to an accessible location or
    2. The topic will be postponed until a time that the meeting can be relocated to an accessible location, but no later than the next scheduled meeting.

    PARTIES NOT ON COMMISSIONERS' AGENDA/MEETING VIEWABLE VIA LIVE VIDEO TRANSMISSION

    If a person with a mobility disability wishes to observe a County Commissioners Meeting, but is not on the Commissioners' Agenda, then the proceeding will be viewable via live video and audio transmission from the first floor of the Van Buren County Courthouse.

COURT PROCEEDINGS

    ACCOMMODATIONS FOR NECESSARY PARTICIPANTS
    PROCEEDING TO BE RELOCATED UPON 48 HOURS NOTICE

    If a necessary participant (i.e., party, juror, attorney, witness) with a mobility impairment is required to attend a proceeding that is normally held in an inaccessible location in the Van Buren Courthouse, the proceeding will be relocated to an accessible location if a request to relocate the court proceeding is made to the court administrator/clerk for the County at least forty-eight (48) hours prior to the scheduled commencement of the proceeding. If a party to a proceeding is represented by counsel and either has a need to request relocation of the proceeding, or requires the presence of a person at the proceeding who needs to request relocation, then the attorney for that party is responsible for making such request.

    ACCESS TO PROCEEDINGS WITH LESS THAN FORTY-EIGHT (48) HOURS NOTICE

    If a necessary participant (i.e., party, juror, attorney, witness) with a mobility impairment is required to attend a proceeding that is normally held in an inaccessible location in the Van Buren County Courthouse, and forty-eight (48) hours notice has not been provided to the court administrator/clerk when requesting relocation of a court proceeding to an accessible location, the proceeding will be postponed until such proceeding can be relocated to an accessible location.

    If a prospective spectator with a mobility impairment wishes to observe a proceeding that is normally held in an inaccessible location in the Van Buren Courthouse, the proceeding will be viewable via live video and audio transmission from the first floor of the Van Buren County Courthouse.

    RELOCATION OF PROCEEDINGS

    DUTIES OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR/CLERK

    Once a request to relocate a proceeding to an accessible location is received, the court administrator/clerk for the County will:

    1. Contact the judge who will preside over the proceeding to determine where such proceeding will be held;
    2. Reserve the location;
    3. Contact parties, jurors, and attorneys who must be present at the proceeding to inform them of the new location;
    4. Post written notice of the new location, and of the availability of accessible county transportation, in a conspicuous location on the first floor of the Van Buren County Courthouse; and
    5. Receive requests for the provision of accessible transportation to the new location and then reserve such means.

    TRANSPORTATION TO BE PROVIDED BY THE COUNTY

    If the proceeding is to be moved to another facility, then accessible transportation to and from that new facility will be made available by the County, upon prior request, to all participants in the proceeding, including parties, jurors, attorneys, witnesses, and spectators who do not have transportation to the new location.

    In order to avoid postponements and relocation of court proceedings at the last minute, the following statement will be made available to the public:

    A person with a disability who requires an accommodation to participate in a court proceeding to be held in the Van Buren County Courthouse should contact the court clerk/administrator for the County of Van Buren at (615) 946-2153 at least forty-eight (48) hours prior to the scheduled time of the proceeding. If a party is represented by counsel, it is the responsibility of the attorney to make such request on behalf of his/her client or witness.

    Live video transmissions of court proceedings and County Commissioners Meetings held on the second floor of the Courthouse can be viewed on the first floor of the Courthouse. For more information contact the court administrator/clerk at (615) 946-2153.

    Such notice will be posted in a conspicuous location on the first floor of the Van Buren County Courthouse and in informational publications that are distributed by the County to provide notice of programs, services, or activities offered by the County.

    Additionally, the following statement must be provided with citation forms, summons forms to parties or prospective jurors, and witness subpoenas:

    A person with a disability who requires an accommodation to participate in a court proceeding to be held in the Van Buren County Courthouse should contact the court administrator clerk for the County of Van Buren at (615) 946-2153 at least forty-eight (48) hours prior to the scheduled time of the proceeding. If a party is represented by counsel, it is the responsibility of the attorney to make such request on behalf of his/her client or witness.

    Attorneys, as officers of the court, will be provided with this procedure so that they may have a reasonable opportunity to make such requests on behalf of the interests of their clients and witness.

    In order to avoid postponements and relocation of County Commissioners Meetings at the last minute, the following statement will be distributed to persons who are on the Commissioners' agenda:

    A person with a disability who is on the agenda of the County Commissioners and requires an accommodation to attend a County Commissioners Meeting should contact the court clerk/administrator at (615) 946-2153.

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Updated August 6, 2015

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