U.S. Department or Justice Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Section DJ# P. 0.

Box 66738 Washington, DC 20035-6738 Howard M. Holmes JUL 16 1996 Deputy Counsel to the Court Administrator Administrative office of Pennsylvania courts 151 Market Street, Suite 1414 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102

RE: Complaint Number Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Dear Mr. Holmes and Mr. This letter constitutes our Letter of Findings under title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. ​ 12131-12134. Title II of the ADA, and the Department of Justice's implementing regulation at 28 C.F.R. Part 35, prohibits public entities from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability. As an instrumentality of a State or local government, the First Judicial District (Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas) is a "Public entity" subject to the requirements of title II of the ADA. 28 C.F.R. 35.104. Our office enforces title II requirements, as applied to State and local courts, through investigation, negotiation, issuance of Letters of Findings, and, if necessary, referral for possible litigation. This matter was initiated by a complaint filed under title II against the First Judicial Court. The complainant stated that he is deaf and uses sign language for communication. In the complaint, he alleges that the First Judicial District refused to

secure the services of qualified interpreters to ensure effective communication with him in a domestic relations proceeding. He also alleges that public telephones in the Family Court Building lack a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) for making outgoing calls by TDD. We have completed our investigation of the complaint. As discussed below, we find no violation with respect to the first allegation. With respect to the second allegation, the First Judicial District agrees to correct the area alleged to be in 01-00422 -2noncompliance with title II of the ADA. Therefore, we conclude that the First Judicial District is now in compliance with the ADA. FACTS our investigation included a review of the First Judicial District' policies, procedures, and pertinent records provided by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and the complainant. Based on our inquiry, we find as follows. The information we obtained established that the complainant is deaf and uses sign language for communication. The complainant was named a party in a domestic relations proceeding. On January 26, 1994, the complainant's attorney sent the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas a written request for interpreters for a hearing scheduled for February 9, 1994. The Court then ordered two interpreters for the hearing. On February 9, the Court was closed due to inclement weather. On March 22, 1994, the parties appeared; however, the interpreters did not appear. The information indicated that the request for interpreting service was canceled by the complainants attorney or due to a clerical error. Both parties and their respective attorneys had requested not to enter into a support order at that hearing as they were trying to reach an outside agreement, which they did in May 1994. our investigation shows that Pennsylvania courts have a policy for interpreting services. Rule 1903 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Judicial Administration specifically provides that, in

any civil action or proceeding in any court in which a participant is deaf, the Court must, upon request, appoint an interpreter to assist the participant, without cost to the participant. With respect to the second allegation, the information we obtained confirmed the lack of TDD's at public telephones. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS The title II regulation at 28 C.F.R. 35.160(a) requires that a public entity take appropriate steps to ensure that communications with participants with disabilities are as effective as communications with others. Section 35.160(b)(1) requires a public entity to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services whenever necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a service, program, or activity conducted by a public entity. As noted in section 35.104, auxiliary aids and services include qualified interpreters, notetakers, assistive 01-00423

-3listening devices, assistive listening systems, transcription services, telecommunications devices for the deaf, or other effective methods of making orally delivered materials available to individuals with disabilities.

ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION In evaluating the Court's compliance with the title II requirement for effective communication, we have determined that the Court secured two interpreters for the February 9, 1994, hearing, thus meeting the requirements of section 35.160(b)(1). With respect to the March 22, 1994, hearing, although the parties appeared, the complainant's counsel had cancelled the request (otherwise, the request was cancelled due to a clerical error). The parties settled the case out of the court. The Pennsylvania courts has established a written policy for providing

interpreters in all civil proceedings in which a participant is deaf. The Court has ordered nine TDDs to be installed at the Family Court Building. Based on all of the above, we find the Court to be in compliance with title II and its implementing regulation, as to the allegations in the complaint. This case is closed as of the date of this letter. This determination is not intended and should not be construed to cover any other issues regarding compliance with the title II regulation which may exist, but are not specifically discussed herein. We appreciate the cooperation and assistance that Howard M. Holmes extended to our office during the course of the investigation. If you have any questions about this matter, please contact me at (202) 307-2236. Sincerely,

Robert T. Mather Attorney Disability Rights section

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