The American Bar Association House of Delegates passed a resolution August 10 opposing a bill from U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) restricting the rights of federal Protection and Advocacy groups to file class action lawsuits.
“The American Bar Association opposes legislation that includes more restrictive requirements for class actions on behalf of individuals with disabilities seeking relief through the Protection and Advocacy System than class action requirements under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,” the resolution stated. “The American Bar Association urges Congress to provide adequate funding for the Protection and Advocacy System and related programs, and to preserve its authority to protect, represent, and fully investigate on behalf of persons with disabilities in institutions, facilities and the community.”
Under federal law, every state which accepts certain federal funds must also designate a Protection and Advocacy organization to advocate on behalf of people with disabilities.
The bill would specifically modify the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to bar these organizations from filing class action lawsuits on behalf of individual against their resident care facilities. It would also provide the individual’s guardian final say regarding whether the individual should remain in an institution.
The bill has been strongly opposed by disability rights groups nationwide. A letter from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) argues that the bill would lead to more cases of unnecessary institutionalization, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The letters also argues that guardians already have a voice in ensuring that legal advocacy from Protection & Advocacy groups benefits people with disabilities. The National DisAbility Rights Network is a CCD member.
“Having a fully range of appropriate remedies, including the use of a class action, has been a keystone to protecting the civil and legal rights of individuals with developmental disabilities in all facets of their lives, including community integration,” the CCD stated in the letter.
The only group in favor of the bill is the Voice of the Retarded, an organization that often opposes deinstitutionalization efforts.
Rep. Frank has proposed the bill in multiple past sessions as well.