Scott Crawford v. Hinds County Board of Supervisors
Hinds County, Mississippi, No. 20-60372 (2021)
Keywords: jury service, injunctive relief, jury duty, future injury, disability, wheelchair, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), District Court, courthouse, courtrooms, architectural, restrooms, juror
Dr. Scott Crawford (“Dr. Crawford”) lives in Hinds County, Mississippi, the largest county by population in the state and the location of the state capital. On two occasions, Dr. Crawford was summoned for jury duty but could not serve due to the inaccessibility of the county courthouse. Dr. Crawford brought a claim under 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131, 12132 of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) to seek an injunctive relief as it is likely he would be summoned again for jury duty. “Injunctive Relief” is when a court awards a nonmonetary judgment, such as an order to do something or refrain from doing something when monetary damages are not sufficient to repair the injury. The district court dismissed the case, finding Dr. Crawford did not have standing, meaning Dr. Crawford did not have an injury that was concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent. This decision of the district court was reversed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Dr. Crawford has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. Dr. Crawford was summoned to serve as a juror twice from 2006 to 2017 but found the courthouse to be inaccessible. The Hinds County Courthouse entrance was not wheelchair-accessible, and the side entrance door was too heavy for someone using a wheelchair to open. The courthouse restroom facilities were not accessible. Further, there was no accessible seating in the building for wheelchair users.
Dr. Crawford and his colleagues from Living Independence for Everyone met with county officials to assess the courthouse and found accessibility barriers. The Hind County Board hired an ADA coordinator. However, in 2015 Dr. Crawford was again called for jury duty and discovered that no progress had been made since 2012 to fix the accessibility issues.
The lower court ruled that Dr. Crawford did not have standing for injunctive relief because it was uncertain if Dr. Crawford would be summoned again for jury duty, and therefore incur an injury as a result of the courthouse’s inaccessibility.
The Court of Appeals restated that jury service was covered under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court said that it could not determine if Dr. Crawford would be called for and excluded from jury service in the future. The court previously ruled that a plaintiff with a likelihood of being called for jury service can sue for an injunctive relief against general exclusion, but not an individual exclusion related to a specific judge’s actions.
The Court of Appeals ruled that Dr. Crawford could sue for injunctive relief. Dr. Crawford could be called for jury duty again, which is considered a repeated injury, as he had already been called twice. Due to the population size of Hinds County, his chances increased for being called again.
The Court of Appeals found that the architectural barriers presented in the Hinds County Courthouse resulted in systematic exclusion, and not an isolated incident. Dr. Crawford had standing to sue because of a threat of a repeated injury and concrete evidence that if he had been called for jury duty two times before filing suit, then it is likely he will be called again.
Dr. Crawford was called for jury duty four times over a seven-year period that suggested a pattern where Dr. Crawford will suffer from repeated discrimination in the future.
The issue is whether, for purposes of determining standing, the court was allowed to consider Dr. Crawford’s post-filing jury summonses in 2018 and 2019. The post-filing summons showed that Dr. Crawford was not presenting a new injury, but rather gave more evidence to confirm the threat of a repeated injury in the future.
Dr. Crawford presented sufficient evidence to display a future injury at the time of the suit to establish injunctive relief.
People who are unable to access courthouses may bring claims against municipalities to address inaccessibility issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act if they are actually excluded and offer evidence regarding the likelihood of future exclusion.