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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 25, 2002
1:54 PM
CONTACT:  ADA Watch Coalition
Jim Ward of the ADA Watch Coalition, 202-467-2359
Bush Turning to Opponents of ADA to Fill Crucial Judicial, Executive Positions
Enforcement in Jeopardy on Anniversary of Disability Rights Law
 
WASHINGTON - July 25 - As the Nation prepares to celebrate the 12th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and honor the life of Justin Dart, Jr., the Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and recognized "Father of the ADA" who died just weeks ago, disability rights advocates are pausing to acknowledge the current attacks on the civil rights of people with disabilities in the Courts, Congress, and the Administration.

"Perhaps most damaging," ADA Watch executive director Jim Ward explains, "is that President Bush has filled the ranks of the federal government -- and seeks to do the same with the court system -- with opponents of the ADA and other civil rights laws. Many of these individuals, Federalism and States' Rights extremists, have been cynically given the responsibility to enforce the very laws they have attacked. We call on President Bush to appoint individuals who will uphold Federal law protecting and empowering individuals with disabilities."

Bush-appointed opponents of the ADA and other disability rights laws include:

-- Ohio lawyer Jeffrey Sutton nominated to a lifetime position on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Most recently, Sutton argued the University of Alabama v. Patricia Garrett case in the Supreme Court, producing a 5-4 decision that state employees who suffered discrimination could not sue under the ADA to seek damages from the state. More that 400 disability organizations have united under the ADA Watch Coalition to oppose this nomination.

-- Attorney General John Ashcroft who, as Senator, took the lead role in trying to weaken the due process protections afforded children and youth with disabilities by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Ashcroft's Justice Department has taken the wrong side in Supreme Court disability cases and has done little to enforce the ADA.

-- Gerald Reynolds, recess appointed by President Bush to run the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education (60 percent of OCR cases are disability-related). Reynolds told the U.S. Civil Rights Commission that the ADA is one of the "statutes and regulations (that) are going to retard economic development in urban centers across the country." (April 5, 1997)

-- D. Brooks Smith, a conservative activist nominated by Bush to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, dismissed charges against institutions in Pennsylvania where horrific care of individuals with mental disabilities included flies and ants on food, maggots and ants on residents, residents sitting in wheelchairs for hours without having their diapers changed, injuries due to neglect, overmedicating, and more. Judge Smith concluded that the State had no constitutional obligation to "enhance the resident's level of functioning."

-- Eugene Scalia, Bush's controversial recess appointee to Solicitor at the Department of Labor. Scalia has made a career out of representing big business against employees and has sought to limit the scope of the ADA. He has called federal ergonomics regulations proposed to prevent disabilities in the workplace "junk science."

-- Bush's Interior Secretary, Gale Norton, who advocated for states' rights by claiming that "we lost too much" when the South was defeated in the Civil War. (Independence Institute Speech, 1996) Norton also threatened to sue the federal government for forcing Colorado to add a wheelchair ramp to the statehouse under the ADA, calling it "a really ugly addition to the state capitol."

-- Linda Chavez, Bush's first pick for Secretary of Labor, ridiculed the ADA as 'special treatment in the name of accommodating the disabled.'" (AP, Jan. 5, 2001) Chavez runs the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO), whose legal counsel, Roger Glegg, has repeatedly attacked the ADA for what he calls its "dubious rationale and its silly results" and believes Congress should at least exclude protections for people with "mental impairments." (The Public Interest, June 1st, 1999)

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