Groups Urge NYS Office of Court Administration to Create Better Pathways for Disabled People to Request Courtroom Accommodations
In August 2023, the New York State United Court System Office of Court Administration announced their request for public comment regarding the adoption of a new rule that aims to provide disabled litigants and attorneys the ability to request certain types of reasonable accommodations in judicial proceedings.
Although the intentions behind the proposed rule are good, and we commend the OCA for seeking to create a process for which non-administrative accommodations may be requested, we believe the rule itself risks perpetuating disability discrimination rather than eliminating it.
We believe that were the Court to adopt their proposed rule as is, they would fail to ensure equitable access and non-discrimination under the ADA, would cause confusion and deterrence through their accommodation request process, and create confidentiality concerns among requesters.
Here are some shortcomings of the proposed OCA rule:
- The rule requires a requester to specify how their disability limits them instead of asking about the modification needed to enjoy equal access to the courts, applying an incorrect legal standard in violation of the ADA.
- The rule gives extraordinarily vague standards that allow judges to request additional information at their discretion, raising concerns that different judges will require different levels of “proof” to establish disability.
- The rule has a confusing and poorly defined request process in which some accommodations can be granted by court staff and others approved by a judge, which will increase the difficulty of obtaining accommodations.
- The OCA has not made a standardized form or template for accommodation requests to make the request process more accessible and streamlined.
- The rule has unduly restrictive language for requesters who have difficulty drafting a written request, preventing them from getting assistance.
- The rule allows judges to disclose accommodation request information to the opposing party, which will cause many litigants to be reluctant to request accommodations because it may harm their litigation position.
We urge the OCA to convene with disability rights organizations to create a more accessible pathway for disabled people requesting accommodations in courtroom proceedings.
We thank Johns Hopkins University Disability Health Research Center, National Pain Advocacy Center, and Tzedek DC for signing on to our comments.
Read our full letter to the OCA here.