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Saturday, December 9, 2023

SCOTUS Says Disability Tester Case Is Moot

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the civil rights of people with autism and other disabilities Acheson Hotels v. Laufer, was a Supreme Court case about whether disability testers could sue businesses for ADA violations without visiting them.  Eric Michael Garcia at NBC:

Acheson had wanted the Supreme Court to rule despite Laufer backing out of the case. But, again, the court decided the case was moot and, thus, spared us a ruling that could have been disastrous for disabled Americans.

Tuesday was just the latest example of people with disabilities dodging a bullet from this conservative Supreme Court.

Tuesday was just the latest example of people with disabilities dodging a bullet from this conservative Supreme Court. In March, in what was a surprise unanimous decision written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who has previously ruled against people with disabilities, the Supreme Court ruled that a deaf student who’d sued in a case demanding sign language interpreters under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act could still bring a case under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In a case that raised the question of whether people could sue Medicaid when state programs aren’t properly administered, Susie Talevski, who says her late father was mistreated in an Indiana care facility, told Sara Luterman at The 19th News that people warned her that she would lose the case and that her loss would weaken people with disabilities’ ability to file lawsuits.

But with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson writing the majority opinion for the court, the court ruled 7-2 that such lawsuits could proceed, causing a massive sigh of relief from those of us who feared the court would rule the opposite way.

After Tuesday’s decision, there might be some who say the Supreme Court is not as bad as disability advocates have said, or argue that the court has shown itself to be in favor of people with disabilities. But in the Talevski case, it did not rule that there was an ADA violation, only that Talevski’s lawsuit could proceed. And in the case of the deaf student, the court didn’t go as far as disability rights activists wanted.

It’s clear that Tuesday's decision doesn’t mean the ADA is safe.

“We emphasize, however, that we might exercise our discretion differently in a future case,” Barrett wrote. In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “I would not dismiss this case as moot. There is no question that we have authority to address Laufer’s standing.”