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Minnesota Court Awards $146,546.19 for Failing to Provide Deaf Interpreter

On February 17, 2005 a Minnesota state court awarded a prisoner $7,500 in damages and fined the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) $1,000 for failing to provide an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for a prisoner in the Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP). On September 13, 2005 the court awarded the prisoner $130,101.65 in attorney fees and $8,944.54 in costs.

Scott A. Bailey, a Minnesota state prisoner, was born totally deaf. He has good ASL skills, but limited use of English to read and write. Following an unsuccessful parole, he requested SOTP which DOC prisoners are paid to attend. Well aware of Bailey's need for an ASL interpreter, DOC officials stalled. After Bailey threatened suit, they assigned him to individual SOTP using written English to communicate. Their failure to provide an ASL interpreter made it impossible for Bailey to participate in the group therapy sessions which were the core of the program, made it difficult for him to understand the therapy since he had limited English and made him feel isolated, singled-out and frustrated. After six months with no interpreter, he quit the SOTP. He then filed suit in state district court challenging the failure to provide an ASL interpreter as violating the Federal Rehabilitation Act (FRA), 29 U.S.C. § 794, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12.011, et seq. and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), Minnesota Statute § 363A.Ol, et seq. Following a six-day bench trial, the court found the DOC had violated the ADA and FRA and had engaged in a discriminatory practice forbidden by the MHRA. The court awarded Bailey $7,500 for emotional harm, ordered the DOC to enroll Bailey in SOTP with an ASL interpreter at the DOC's expense and fined the DOC $1,000 under the MHRA.

Bailey moved for attorney fees and costs, requesting fees of $315 per hour for 590.03 hours of work. The court found the hourly fee reasonable, but reduced the award of fees by 30% and costs by 20% because there were claims relating to a lack of interpreters at disciplinary hearings and a brief lack of TTY telephones that were decided adversely to Bailey. Bailey was represented by attorney Roderick J. McPherson of the Minnesota Disability Law Center in Minneapolis. See: Bailey v. Minnesota DOC, Ramsey Co.-Second Judicial District, No. C6-03-6996.

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Bailey v. Minnesota DOC

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