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No Sit/No Lie: Letter From Texas Civil Rights Project

The following is a letter from James C. Harrington, Director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, to the Mayor of Austin, Texas, and the members of the City Council, supporting House the Homeless president, Richard R. Troxell’s, testimony that the “No Sit/No Lie” ordinance violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

TEXAS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT
1405 Montopolis Drive
Austin, Texas 78741-3438
(512) 474-5073 (phone)
(512) 474-0726 (fax)

James C. Harrington, Director
February 27, 2011

Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Members of the City Council
City Hall
Austin, Texas

Re: “No Sit/No Lie” ordinance

Dear Mayor and Members of the Council:

This follows up on the letter I sent you on February 1 and outlines what I believe are two deficiencies in the currently proposed ordinance such that they would be violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

First is the apparent omission of mental disabilities or less than full coverage, as Richard Troxell has pointed out.  The ADA and Section 504 cover both.

Second is affirmative defense in criminal cases.  Both the ADA and Section 504 require that the City accommodate people who have a disability, whether mental or physical, when that disability is known or apparent.  Not to do so is a violation of federal law.

Subjecting someone to criminal prosecution because of their disability, whether or not there is an affirmative defense, is not an accommodation.  In fact, it would be a discriminatory act.  This is all the more so since a person charged with a Class C misdemeanor is not entitled to an attorney.

I believe that the current form of the ordinance would violate the ADA and Section 504.  As I mentioned before, we would be happy to litigate this issue; but I hope we wouldn’t have to.

Cordially,
James C. Harrington