The parties to this Settlement Agreement ("Agreement") are the United States of America and Atlanta's John Marshall Law School ("AJM Law").
This matter was initiated by a complaint dated May 5, 2010, against AJM Law made by the National Federation of the Blind. The Attorney General conducted this investigation under the authority granted by section 308(b) of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b).
The parties have reached agreement that it is in the parties' best interests, and the United States believes that it is in the public interest, to resolve this dispute without engaging in protracted litigation. The parties have therefore voluntarily entered into this Agreement, agreeing as follows:
TITLE III COVERAGE AND FINDING
The Attorney General is responsible for administrating and enforcing title III of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-12189, and the relevant regulations implementing title III, 29 C.F.R. Part 36.
Under title III of the ADA, no person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation may discriminate against an individual on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodation of a place of public accommodation. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a).
AJM Law is a private university with its principal location at 1422 W. Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30309.
AJM Law is a private entity within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12181(6) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.104; a public accommodation within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.104; and a place of education within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12181(7)(J) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.
Prospective students wishing to attend AJM Law must submit an application, undergraduate and international transcripts, letters of recommendation, scores
from the Law School Admission Test ("LSAT"), and an application fee, among other requirements. All of these requirements may be completed through the use of the Law School Admission Council's ("LSAC") Credential Assembly Service.
AJM Law requires that transcripts and letters of recommendation be submitted through the LSAC Credential Assembly Service. The electronic application and ability to pay the application fee are included in the registration for the required LSAC Credential Assembly Service.
LSAC's electronic application forms are inaccessible to prospective blind students; they cannot be navigated with conventional screen access software. The inaccessibility of LSAC's electronic application form means that blind applicants cannot take advantage of LSAC's "Common Information Form," bundling of application into the required LSAC Credential Assembly Service, or online payment of the application fee.
AJM Law's only alternative is a downloadable application that cannot be completed electronically; must be printed and mailed or e-mailed to the law school. In addition, use of AJM Law's non-preferred application method signals to applicants that their application may not be given equal consideration and may communicate their vision impairment to members of the selection committee.
The application process as it exists denies blind students the ability to apply to AJM Law independently and on an equal basis with others, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a) and 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.201-202.
By separate agreement between LSAC and the National Federation of the Blind, LSAC has agreed to make its electronic application process accessible to blind individuals for the Fall 2012 application cycle. Full and equal access means blind students will have access to the same information, the same interactions, and the same services with substantially equivalent ease of use.
ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN BY AJM LAW
AJM Law will not exclude persons with disabilities from participation in or deny them the benefits of full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodation in violation of section 302 of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12182, and the relevant implement regulations, 28 C.F.R. Part 36.
Within 30 days of the date of this Agreement, AJM Law will modify its website to explain that the LSAC electronic application process is inaccessible to individuals who are blind and that LSAC provides telephone assistance in completing applications to individuals free of charge, to provide the contact information for that assistance, to include a clear statement that applicants who choose not to use the LSAC service will be given full consideration, and to set forth AJM Law's nondiscrimination policy.
AJM Law will cease using the LSAC electronic application process for the Fall 2012 application cycle unless it is accessible to and usable by applicants who are blind, as provided by Paragraph 4 of the Settlement Agreement between NFB and LSAC, attached hereto as Attachment 1.
AJM Law will report to the United States on its progress in implementing this
Agreement, including the actions described in paragraph 15, 30 days from the effective date of this Agreement.
In consideration for the Agreement, set forth above, the United States will refrain from undertaking further action relating to this investigation or from filing a civil action alleging discrimination based on the facts set forth above, except as
provided in paragraph 19 below.
The United States may review compliance with this Agreement or title III of the ADA at any time. If the United States believes that this Agreement or any portion of it has been violated, it will raise its concerns with AJM Law and the parties will attempt to resolve the concerns in good faith. The United States will give AJM Law 30 days from the date it notifies AJM Law of any breach of this Agreement to cure that breach before instituting an enforcement action. If the United States is unable to reach a satisfactory resolution of the issue or issues raised within 30 days of the date it provides notice to AJM Law it may institute a civil action in the appropriate U.S. District Court to enforce this Agreement or title III of the ADA.
Failure by the United States to enforce this entire Agreement or any of its provisions shall not be construed as a waiver of its right to do so with regard to other provisions of this Agreement.
This Agreement shall be binding on AJM Law, including all principals, agents, executors, administrators, representatives, employees, successors in interest, beneficiaries, assigns, and legal representatives thereof. In the event that AJM Law seeks to sell, transfer, or assign all or part of its interest during the term of this Agreement, as a condition of sale, transfer, or assignment, AJM Law shall obtain the written accession of the successor or assignee to any obligation remaining under this Agreement for the remaining term of this Agreement.
A signatory to this document in a representative capacity for either party represents that he or she is authorized to bind that party to this Agreement.
This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the United States and AJM Law on the matters raised herein and no other statement, promise or agreement, either written or oral, made by any party or agents of any party, that is not contained in this written Agreement, including its attachments, shall be enforceable.
This Agreement is not intended to remedy any other potential violations of the ADA or any other law that is not specifically addressed in this Agreement. Nothing in this Agreement changes AJM Law's obligation to otherwise comply with the requirements of the ADA.
EFFECTIVE DATE/TERMINATION DATE
The effective date of this Agreement is the date of the last signature below.
The duration of this Agreement will be three years from the effective date.
AGREED AND CONSENTED TO:
Richardson R. Lynn
Atlanta's John Marshall Law School
THOMAS E. PEREZ
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
JOHN L. WODATCH, Chief
ALLISON NICHOL, Deputy Chief
PHILIP L. BREEN, Special Legal Counsel
KATE M. NICHOLSON, Trial Attorney
DAVID W. KNIGHT, Trial Attorney
Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530