The title of today’s blog recognizes the gift bestowed by Judge Nannette Brown on everyone interested in the ADA in all its many details. Bailey v. Bd. of Commissioners of Louisiana Stadium and Exposition Dist., 2020 WL 5309962 (E.D. La. Sept. 4, 2020) is the latest of Judge Brown’s decisions concerning the dispute over stadium seating in the Superdome. Written after trial, the 64 page decision methodically dissects the law concerning concerning which standards apply to what parts of a facility after alterations, what the sight-line requirements for stadiums are under the various standards, including an exposition of the law concerning Auer deference and the effect of Kisor v. Wilke, how Title II program accessibility requirements fit into design/build standards, what kind of control is required for a person to be an “operator” of a public accommodation, when and how the “reasonable modification” requirement in Title III of the ADA applies to Title II entities, and last but not least the extent to which Title I’s “interactive process” requirement might apply to Titles II and III. The Fifth Circuit, and maybe the Supreme Court, will have the last word in this case, but if you are looking for a quick reference to almost every issue that comes up in a case involving altered facilities you can find it in this decision.¹ More
In its May 2, 2017 decision in Koester v. Young Men’s Christian Assn. of Greater St. Louis, 855 F.3d 908, 909 (8th Cir. 2017) the Eighth Circuit casually suggested that the “interactive process” does not apply to accommodation requests under Title III of the ADA. It sidestepped the issue in the end, but wrote that it approached a claim based on a failure of the process with a “a healthy dose of skepticism that these concepts are applicable in this Title III case.” As authority it dropped a footnote to its earlier decision, Mershon v. St. Louis U., 442 F.3d 1069, 1078 (8th Cir. 2006). In Mershon the Court expressed doubt that the interactive process applied to a claim in an academic setting, referring in turn to the decision in Stern v. U. of Osteopathic Med. and Health Scis., 220 F.3d 906, 909 (8th Cir. 2000). The Stern case did not include any expression of doubt; only a recognition that the question was unresolved: “Even if such an interactive process is required in an academic setting. . . .” This time the authority cited was a lower court decision, Guckenberger v. Boston U., 974 F. Supp. 106, 142 (D. Mass. 1997). In Guckenberger, oddly enough, the Court assumed that an interactive process was required by Title III, but found that the system in place at the defendant university was sufficiently interactive.