Student Note on Police Misconduct Claims Under the ADA
New on Westlaw: Rachel E. Brodin, Comment, Remedying a Particularized Form of Discrimination: Why Disabled Plaintiffs Can and Should Bring Claims for Police Misconduct Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 154 U. Pa. L. Rev. 157 (2005). From the introduction:
The growing possibility that disabled plaintiffs can bring claims for police misconduct under Title II has significant benefits for the practice of civil rights law in this country. The traditional route for police misconduct lawsuits, Section 1983, presents many obstacles to success for both disabled plaintiffs and the general population. Any alternative means of bringing a subset of civil rights cases--even one that is limited to a specific group of plaintiffs (disabled persons) and a specific type of claim (police misconduct)--should not be ignored.
This Comment will explore courts' treatment of actions for police misconduct under Title II and the contours of the decisional law in that area. Part I will discuss the theoretical bases for application of the ADA to arrests, namely the wrongful arrest theory and the reasonable accommodation theory. Part II will analyze the case law that has arisen out of plaintiffs' attempts to bring claims for police misconduct under Title II. Part II will also demonstrate how initial assumptions that lower courts made about the applicability of the ADA to such lawsuits--which prevented them from allowing the claims to go forward--were discredited by the Supreme Court in Pennsylvania Department of Corrections v. Yeskey, leaving the path clear for acceptance of Title II in the law enforcement context. Part III addresses the question of why a disabled plaintiff should bring ADA claims for civil rights violations when the traditional remedy is an action under Section 1983. Part III will also compare the obstacles to recovery under each claim and will attempt to determine under what circumstances an ADA claim might succeed even when a parallel Section 1983 action would likely fail. In addition, Part III will describe the distinction between the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act and the advantages and disadvantages of pleading a parallel claim under the Rehabilitation Act in addition to an ADA claim. Finally, Part III will provide reasons, beyond strategic benefits, for disabled plaintiffs to plead claims in addition to the usual Section 1983 claims. In conclusion, this Comment will bring together two strands of argument--the feasibility of ADA claims for police misconduct and the desirability of those actions over the traditional civil rights claims--to demonstrate that there are important practical and symbolic reasons for plaintiffs to plead their disability claims under the ADA.