Ex Parte Blaine Milam

Filed: July 18, 2024

Court: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Overview: Amicus brief alongside other disability rights organizations arguing that Supreme Court precedent requires courts to refer to clinical standards when determining intellectual disability in death penalty cases.

Excerpt: “In Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), the United States Supreme Court held that executing defendants with intellectual disability violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Subsequently, in Hall v. Florida, 134 S. Ct. 1986 (2014), in accord with the clinical consensus, the United States Supreme Court rejected an arbitrary cutoff for intelligence quotient (“IQ”) scores in making the intellectual disability determination and emphasized the importance of courts’ adherence to the appropriate clinical standards in their analysis. In Moore v. Texas, 137 S. Ct. 1039 (2017) (hereinafter “Moore I”), the Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments requires that adjudications of intellectual disability in death penalty cases be “informed by the views of medical experts” and that the non-clinical factors adopted in Ex parte Briseño, 135 S.W.3d 1 (Tex. Crim. App. 2004) may no longer be used because they create an unacceptable risk that persons with intellectual disability will be executed. Following the Supreme Court’s lead, this Court has held that Texas courts ‘must be informed by the current medical diagnostic framework for assessing intellectual disability’ when determining whether a person has intellectual disability. Petetan v. State, 622 S.W.3d 321, 357 (Tex. Crim. App. 2021); Moore I, 137 S. Ct. at 1044. Courts must insist on the use of the clinical framework in evaluating Atkins claims. Otherwise, they risk violating the Eighth Amendment and unconstitutionally sentencing individuals to death.”

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Guthrey v. Alta California Regional Center

Filed: July 11, 2024

Court: U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Overview: Amicus brief arguing that California regional centers and their vendors, which coordinate and deliver services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, are places of public accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Excerpt: “Because they have physical buildings at which and from which they provide services to the public, California Regional Centers and their vendors (including Defendants/Appellees) are all places of public accommodation under Title III of the ADA. . .and the services they provide individuals like Plaintiffs/Appellants are covered by that statute. . .This Circuit’s requirement that discrimination challenged under Title III have a ‘nexus’ to a physical building simply requires a connection to that building; it does not require that the discrimination have occurred on the physical premises. The district court’s opinion requiring a showing that the challenged services were provided at Defendants’ offices. . . improperly restricted the reach of Title III, contrary to the plain language of the statute, its legislative history, and this Circuit’s precedent. The district court also improperly required that plaintiffs establish a violation of the ADA as a prerequisite to a claim under either Section 504 or the Unruh Act. These holdings are completely unsupported, as the three statutes – while all addressing disability discrimination – do so in different contexts with, as a result, different required factual predicates.  Ultimately, by eliminating all recourse for individuals with IDD to challenge discrimination by Regional Centers and their vendors, the district court’s decision threatens to undermine years of progress through both the ADA and California’s Lanterman Act.”

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City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson

Filed: April 3, 2024

Court: U.S. Supreme Court

Overview: Amicus brief arguing that the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment prohibits cities from criminalizing conduct associated with being unhoused.

Excerpt: “People with disabilities face unique challenges and deep-rooted stigmas that increase their risk for homelessness. Less than 5% of housing in the United States is accessible for moderate mobility disabilities, and less than 1% is accessible for wheelchair use. Housing costs are prohibitive for many disabled people who rely on public assistance for basic costs of living—the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the United States exceeds the maximum monthly Supplemental Security Income a person can receive. Moreover, widespread housing discrimination on the basis of disability further compounds the risk of homelessness. The Ordinances’ impact on homeless people with disabilities highlights how grossly out of proportion the punishments they impose are to the severity of the offense. Simply put, criminalizing the involuntary conduct of being a homeless person without a place to sleep—in a city with no public shelters—is anathema to the decency standards of any civilized society.”

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Robertson v. District of Columbia

Filed: 2024

Court: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Plaintiffs: Parents and guardians of students with disabilities in the District and The Arc

Counsel: The Arc, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Children’s Law Center, McDermott Will & Emery

Overview: Parents and guardians of children with disabilities living in D.C., along with The Arc of the United States, filed a class action lawsuit against D.C.’s Office of the State Superintendent for Education for failing to provide safe, reliable and effective transportation to and from schools for children with disabilities, thereby denying students equal access to their education and unnecessarily segregating them from their peers.

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Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine

Filed: January 30, 2024

Court: U.S. Supreme Court

Overview: Amicus brief arguing that it is not the role of courts to substitute their evaluation of drug safety and effectiveness in place of the FDA’s expert determinations.

Excerpt: “The Fifth Circuit’s substituting its evaluation of drug safety and effectiveness for FDA’s expert determinations affects far more than the modifications to the conditions of use for the single drug at issue here. Patients and their providers depend on FDA’s determinations about safety and effectiveness and expect drugs to be available according to the terms of the FDA approval, including supplemental approval. Providers rely on FDA’s expertise-based approval of drug uses in making treatment plans, and patients depend on being able to take the drugs as prescribed by their providers. The Fifth Circuit’s ruling broadly jeopardizes the reliability of FDA’s original approvals of drugs, and the agency’s approvals of modifications to the conditions of their use. It is effectively a roadmap for other litigants seeking to overturn drug approvals or conditions of use they disfavor—whether those changes expand (as was the case here) or restrict how the drug can be used. If approved drugs or modifications to conditions of use can be so readily enjoined despite FDA’s scientific assessments, the resulting uncertainty would jeopardize patient access to drugs, particularly in cases where FDA has expanded the approved uses of a drug to cover new diseases or conditions. It could also threaten patient safety, as FDA approves modifications to conditions of use where it determines they are needed to protect patients from risks of harm. Finally, the Fifth Circuit’s decision would impair the development of new treatments, as uncertainty disincentivizes pharmaceutical manufacturers, clinicians, and patients from undertaking time-and resource-intensive clinical trials to study new drugs and new indications for approved drugs.”

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FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine Amicus Brief

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Intersections of Disability and Rurality: Elevating Family Voices

In this recorded webinar, you will hear from Jessica Curd about rural caregiving and disability. She talks about how poverty, living in rural areas, caregiving, and having a disability can overlap and create higher risks and vulnerability. She also talks about a study she did with Dr. John Keesler. They listened to families in rural areas with kids with autism and let them share their experiences. Jessica explains how they did the study and what they found. She also talks about ideas from the families for how to help more.

Download the presentation here.

Introduction to The Arc@School Advocacy Curriculum in Spanish

These recorded webinars provide a brief overview of the Spanish version of The Arc@School’s Special Education Advocacy Curriculum. The curriculum provides basic information that parents, educators, and non-attorney advocates need to support students and families in navigating the special education system. Watch the webinar to learn more about the content of the curriculum, how to sign up to receive an account, what to expect after signing up, and more.



Shifting Our View: A Person-Centered Journey

In this webinar, Lori Ropa, Executive Director of The Arc of Jefferson, Clear Creek, and Gilpin Counties, discusses how she embarked on a journey with their advocacy team during COVID to “shift their views” and attempted to understand the thoughts and feelings of the people who came to support them. Lori’s team developed personas and mapped people’s journeys through The Arc through the lens of each persona. They then developed actionable items to make the advocacy experience even more positive for the people coming to their organization for support.

Download presentation here.