WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 23, 2011) – The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs will present McDermott partners Eugene I. Goldman, Joshua D. Rogaczewski and associates John H. Walker, Clint Carpenter and Thomas J. Tynan with its “Outstanding Achievement Award” at the Committee’s annual Wiley Branton luncheon on Thursday, June 16. The McDermott lawyers are being honored for their role in negotiating a favorable settlement to a five-year battle with the District of Columbia over access to the D.C. Lottery for persons with disabilities.
Working with Firm clients the Equal Rights Center, Robert Coward and Lewis Starks and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, McDermott filed the pro bono lawsuit against the District in 2006, alleging that the D.C. Lottery violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, which requires government programs like the D.C. Lottery to provide meaningful access to persons with disabilities. The goal of the lawsuit was to make the locations in which the D.C. Lottery is offered — many of which are neighborhood markets where lottery customers also purchase food and other items — more accessible to individuals with disabilities. McDermott's prefiling investigation and discovery during the litigation found that many of these "lottery agents" had barriers preventing or impeding access to the stores.
The case presented a difficult legal issue. Title II of the ADA requires the D.C. Lottery to be accessible as a whole, but the law does not make clear how to assess such program accessibility. Specifically, there was considerable uncertainty regarding how many lottery agents needed to be accessible in order for the program as a whole to be deemed “accessible.” Although several lottery programs have been sued, none of the cases proceeded to an adjudicated result.
On the eve of trial before U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, the parties agreed to a settlement designed to increase access to the D.C. Lottery for persons with disabilities:
- D.C. Lottery agents will be required to remove any barriers to accessibility (or qualify for a regulatory exemption) within eighteen (18) months.
- All new agents must remove barriers to accessibility (or qualify for a regulatory exemption) prior to obtaining a license.
- D.C. Lottery agents are now required to participate in accessibility and disability-rights training.
- Lottery agents will procure accessible lottery equipment, if available.
- The D.C. Lottery must provide plaintiffs with periodic reporting on accessible D.C. Lottery agent locations.
In addition, the District set aside $100,000 to assist agents in removing barriers at their locations, and agreed to pay additional sums to the plaintiffs and for attorneys fees.
“This agreement followed years of litigation, but it was worth it,” said Eugene I. Goldman, who served as the lead attorney on the matter for the entirety of the lawsuit. “The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to government programs. We are pleased that, with this settlement agreement, a government program that many enjoy will be open for business for those in wheelchairs. We commend the new Attorney General of Washington, D.C., Irvin Nathan, for his positive contributions in making this achievement happen.”
The favorable result could not have been obtained without the diligent work of many McDermott lawyers over the years. In addition to Mr. Goldman, the litigation team was composed of partner Joshua D. Rogaczewski and associates Clint Carpenter, Thomas J. Tynan and John H. Walker, who completed the discovery efforts and positioned the case for trial. The early efforts of McDermott alumni Daniel A. Mullen and Kristin E. Nelson were also helpful in achieving this result.
The Wiley A. Branton Award takes its name from Wiley A. Branton, Sr., an extraordinary man whose life embodied civil rights advocacy of the highest order. Each year, approximately 800 to 1,000 attorneys and business leaders attend this event to honor recipients of the Branton Award. The award is presented to members of the legal and civil rights advocacy community whose lifetime efforts exemplify Branton’s deep commitment to pro bono service that is at the heart of the Committee’s mission.
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