Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Court will not hear ADA accessibility appeal

You may not be aware of this, but there is a cottage industry of lawsuits alleging that retail establishments and restaurants are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some of these cases are brought in good faith, and some represent an effort to obtain attorneys' fees on behalf of plaintiffs who may or may not have tried to enter these places. I don't know where this case falls in that equation, but remedial efforts by the defendant have prevented the case from proceeding any further, for now.

The case is Range v. 480-486 Broadway, decided on November 24. Plaintiff alleged that this place lacks a permanent ramp from the street to the entrance, and that some interior spaces are too narrow. Defense counsel smartly told the district court that the defendant would fix the problems. Courts like problem solvers, so the judge put the case on hold while the defendant worked on bringing the place into compliance with the ADA. But the court also said that plaintiff could ask the court to modify that order if it wished to do so. Instead, plaintiff filed an appeal, arguing that the stay order was an abuse of discretion. The Court of Appeals (Kearse, Walker and Cabranes) says there is no appellate jurisdiction to hear the case.

Much to the frustration of unhappy litigants who want to appeal any ruling that goes against them, you cannot appeal a ruling in federal court until the entire case is over. There are some exceptions to this, but for the most part, you have to live with bad rulings along the way until the case ends. Not only does this policy allow the Court of Appeals to take up all issues in the case at once and reduce piecemeal appeals, but it's possible that when the case ends, these bad rulings along the way became moot in light of the outcome of the case.

So you know where this case is going. The stay order was not a final ruling by the district court. "While a stay order may be a final order if it effectively cedes federal jurisdiction by refusing to proceed to a disposition on the merits or imposing lengthy or interminable delays, the stay order here is an ordinary delay in the interest of docket control over which we lack jurisdiction."

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