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Friday, October 30, 2015

Areva Martin and the "Public Nuisance" Case

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families.

A press release from Martin & Martin:
October 29, 2015
Martin Law Media
Jennifer Wong
Los Angeles, CA (10/29/15)— Nationally recognized autism advocate and civil rights attorney, Areva Martin, Esq., with LA-based Martin & Martin LLP, has taken over a case involving California parents of an autistic child. In the summer of 2014, Robert Flowers, Marci Flowers, Bindu Pothen and Kumaran Santhanam of Sunnyvale, sued their neighbors Vidyut Gopal, Parul Agrawal and the couple’s autistic son in Santa Clara County Superior Court. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and a temporary and permanent injunction declaring that the Gopals’s autistic child is a public and private nuisance.
The case made national headlines earlier this year after a blogger wrote about the case details. The neighbors’ complaint includes a series of allegations regarding the minor’s conduct ranging from entering a neighbor’s garage to pulling another kid’s hair. The Gopals deny most of the allegations, some of which date back to 2007 when their son was only 3 years old. Moreover, the Gopals claim that the incidents that occurred were minor and involved common behaviors of small children. A few days after the filing, plaintiffs filed a motion for a temporary injunction that the court granted, ordering the Gopals to provide “adequate supervision for their minor son.”
The Gopal family sought out Martin to represent them after stories appeared in the media painting them and their son in an inaccurate and negative light, and also at the urging of many in the autism community who believe the case raises serious civil rights issues regarding families of children with autism and other disabilities.
A national advocate for children suffering from autism and other developmental disabilities, Martin says she is “extremely concerned about the negative light that autism families are being painted in” and that “the Gopals’s constitutional rights may have been violated by many of the actions of their neighbors involved in the lawsuit.”
Martin and her firm, where she is a founding and managing partner, plan to vigorously defend this matter by filing a motion to have the temporary injunction dismissed and are evaluating the issues for a possible civil rights countersuit.
“Plaintiffs’ attempt to declare a young boy with autism, or his behaviors, a public nuisance is not only illegal and against public policy, but it also denies him the dignity and rights afforded to him under the California and U.S. Constitutions,” says Martin.
Kristin Jacobson, the executive director of Autism Deserves Equal Coverage Foundation in California, was shocked by the lawsuit. “Given the progress our state and country has made in other areas of tolerance and acceptance, the discrimination and harassment this family is facing based on the disability is extremely disheartening and an embarrassment.”
“Californians should be supporting and boosting up our most vulnerable and struggling families, but instead the state has been slashing services that would allow individuals with disabilities to be included and welcomed in our neighborhoods. Shame on us and doubly shame on these neighbors.”
Feda Almiliti, a Bay-area autism advocate, echoed Jacobson’s sentiment. “Alleging that a young boy with autism is a “nuisance” is a whole new low. This sickening case sent a chill down my spine.”
Martin has already begun working on the case and providing the family with hope for justice. In the meantime, a Santa Clara judge ordered judicial meditation between the parties. The date of the meditation is December 16. A timeline for the case can be found on the Superior Court’s website.
For interviews, contact Jennifer Wong at 213-388-4747 or