Disability Rights

Amicus Brief on Mitigating Measures in Determining Coverage for the ADA. Attorney General Lockyer and nine other state attorneys general joined in a "friend of the court" brief in February 1999 in Vaughn Murphy v. United Parcel Service, Inc. before the U.S. Supreme Court. Authored by the attorneys general of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the State of West Virginia, the brief supported the plaintiff's arguments that in determining whether someone is disabled for purposes of the Americans With Disabilities Act, ameliorative effects of medication, prosthetic devices, or other mitigating measures should not be considered.

Residential Placements. Attorney General Lockyer withdrew in April 1999 amicus support given previously by his predecessor in Olmstead v. L.C. and E.W., a case then pending before the nation's high court. The "friend of the court" brief had argued that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require states to place persons with mental disabilities in the most integrated environment, and that the Eleventh Amendment bars ADA suits against the states in federal court. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the ADA, under certain circumstances, may require that states place the persons with mental disabilities in the most integrated environment.

Protecting Against Insurance Discrimination. In Chabner v. United Mutual of Omaha, Attorney General Lockyer filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff who sued an insurance company for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), the Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the California Insurance Code by charging plaintiff a higher premium for life insurance because of plaintiff's disability. Attorney General Lockyer personally presented oral argument to the Ninth Circuit on February 8, 2000. The Ninth Circuit ruled in September 2000 that the ADA did not apply to insurance policies. However, accepting the argument of the Attorney General, the Court held that the insurer's action violated California law.

Gaining Expanded Access to Mass Transit for Visually Impaired Californians. On December 5, 2002, Attorney General Lockyer entered into a settlement agreement with Southern California Regional Rail Authority over disabled access violations involving Metrolink, the commuter rail network serving Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. The settlement will mean improvements in service to enable visually impaired Californians to more safely use Metrolink to get to work, to school and for everyday travel. Under the agreement, Metrolink ticket vending machines at all 51 stations will be retrofitted with raised lettering, Braille instructions and tactile graphics and trails to improve access for visually-impaired commuters. Earlier, the Attorney General obtained a settlement agreement with the Metropolitan Transit Authority to have significant improvements to access provided for the disabled. An investigation concluded by the Attorney General in October 2000 found the MTA's East Portal facility at Los Angeles' Union Station did not comply with state disability access laws and regulations.

New Disability Training for Hotel Employees and Improved Accommodation Policies. In a settlement with the Attorney General, a luxury southern California hotel has agreed to provide training on disability issues to all 300-plus employees, and to adopt written policies respecting the hotel's treatment of persons with disabilities who seek to use its facilities. The settlement comes from an Attorney General's investigation concluded in April 2001 into allegations that the hotel, after initially extending accommodations, canceled reservations for the family of a little boy who requires 24-hour nursing care. The child was coming to California to see a specialist and to visit Disneyland. The hotel claimed that, by allowing medical staff and equipment in the hotel, it would be violating a City of Beverly Hills ordinance. The hotel later reversed itself, but the family had already canceled travel plans.

Urging Better Local Compliance. On December 23, 2002, Attorney General Lockyer issued a letter to all District Attorneys, City Attorneys and County Counsel urging them to join him in a renewed and concerted effort to gain better compliance with and to improve enforcement of California disabled access laws.

Urging Reasonable Accommodation Ordinances. On May 15, 2001, Attorney General Lockyer issued a letter urging local governments to consider enacting an ordinance to provide a special procedure for processing "reasonable accommodation" applications made by persons with disabilities who seek relief from local land use and zoning laws in order to fully enjoy the use of housing accommodations. This letter was sent to the mayor of every incorporated city and the chair of every county board of supervisors in the State of California.

Reminding Local Governments of Open Meetings Compliance. On April 23, 2002, Attorney General Lockyer issued a letter to all cities and counties that reminds them of their obligation under the Brown Open Meeting Act, Government Code section 54961 et seq., to hold their meetings in facilities that are accessible to all Californians.

Reminder to Local Building Officials. On April 29, 2002, Attorney General Locker issued a letter to all local building officials in California that reminds these officials of their statutory obligation to enforce California's access laws and regulations, and urges them to vigorously enforce those laws and regulations.