Chisolm v. McManimon, 00-1865

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtRoth
Citation275 F.3d 315
Docket NumberNo. 00-1865,00-1865
Decision Date28 December 2001

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275 F.3d 315 (3rd Cir. 2001)

No. 00-1865
Argued on July 24, 2001
Filed December 28, 2001

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. Civil Action No. 95-CV-00991) District Judge: Honorable Mary Little Cooper

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Copyrighted Material Omitted

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Clara R. Smit, Esquire Turnpike Metroplex 190 Highway 18 North, Suite 200 East Brunswick, NJ 08816. Marc Charmatz, Esquire, Mary Vargas, Esquire (Argued), Sarah Geer, Esquire, Claudia Gordon, Esquire, National Association of the Deaf Law Center 814 Thayer Avenue Silver Spring, MD 20910, Attorneys for Appellant.

Andrew J. Schragger, Esquire, Ashley Bostic-Hutchinson, Esquire (Argued), Office of County Counsel, County of Mercer 640 South Broad Street McDade Administration Building Trenton, NJ 08650. Doulgass L. Derry, Esquire (Argued) Office of Attorney General of New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex Trenton, NJ 08625. John J. Farmer, Jr. Attorney General of New Jersey, Nancy Kaplen Assistant Attorney General, Diane M. Lamb Deputy Attorney General, Office of Attorney General of New Jersey 25 Market Street Trenton, NJ 08625, Attorneys for Appellees.

Seth M. Galanter, Esquire United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division P.O. Box 66078 Washington, DC 20035-6078, Attorney for Inventor.

Before: Roth, Barry and Ambro, Circuit Judges


Roth, Circuit Judge

In this appeal, we must resolve two issues. First, we consider whether the

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Eleventh Amendment bars suit against a county court, based on an alleged failure to provide interpretive services, where the judicial, but not all the administrative, functions of the court have been merged by steps into a unified state court system. Under the facts here, we hold that suit is not barred. Second, we review whether the District Court properly granted summary judgment, dismissing claims brought by a disabled inmate under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. SS 12131-12135 ("ADA"), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. S 794 ("Rehabilitation Act"), 42 U.S.C. S 1983 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J. Stat. S 10:5-4.1 (NJLAD). Because we conclude that there are genuine issues of material fact, we will reverse the granting of summary judgment by the District Court and remand this case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. Factual and Procedural History

A. Ronald Chisolm's Detention at the Mercer County Detention Center

On Saturday, September 10, 1994, while driving in Mercer County, New Jersey, Ronald Chisolm, a deaf person who communicates primarily through American Sign Language (ASL), was stopped by officers of the Princeton Police Department. The officers arrested Chisolm pursuant to a Bucks County, Pennsylvania, bench warrant. The bench warrant was issued in 1990 because Chisolm failed to attend an intoxicated driver resource program. The program was required as part of his sentence following a 1987 guilty plea to driving under the influence. After Chisolm's arrest, he was taken to the Mercer County Detention Center (MCDC) to await extradition to Bucks County. He was admitted to MCDC at 3:40 p.m on Saturday afternoon.

MCDC, which has since closed, was a maximum security, pretrial detention facility located in Trenton, New Jersey. It housed detainees who were awaiting extradition to other states or were awaiting trial on indictable charges, ranging from murder to narcotics-related offenses. When inmates arrived at MCDC during the week, they were generally processed within a few hours. Processing occurred at the intake unit (4 North Living Unit) and involved a classification assessment to determine the inmate's security threat, custody status, and appropriate placement within MCDC. However, the MCDC's classification staff worked only Monday through Friday. On weekends, newly arrived detainees were "locked-down" in their cells either in the 4 North Living Unit or in the Receiving and Discharge Unit (R&D) to keep them apart from the general inmate population before classification. These unclassified detainees consumed their meals in their cells and did not have television or telephone privileges.

When Chisolm arrived at MCDC on Saturday afternoon, an MCDC employee attempted to interview him. Chisolm indicated to the employee that he was deaf and could not understand her. Chisolm then requested an ASL interpreter and a TDD.1 In addition, he asked that his hearing roommate, Kenneth Knight, be contacted. Chisolm contends that MCDC failed to provide the requested aids and failed to contact Knight. He also claims that MCDC did not provide him with any

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initial intake information, such as the reason for his detention or the rules and regulations of the facility.

Later that afternoon, Chisolm was taken to an MCDC nurse. Chisolm claims that he was upset, but, without an ASL interpreter, he could not explain why he was upset. MCDC asserts, however, that Chisolm was given paper and a pencil in order to communicate with MCDC personnel. The MCDC nurse conducted a medical evaluation of Chisolm and determined that he might be a suicide risk. MCDC contends that Chisolm's behavior caused concern that he might harm himself.

Chisolm was kept in solitary lock down in cell 304 of R&D from Saturday, September 10, until Tuesday, September 13. During this time, he did not have access to a television set because there wasn't one in R&D. Moreover, pursuant to MCDC policies, Chisolm could not have access to a telephone until he was classified.

On Monday, September 12, Chisolm was taken to penal counselor Jennifer Rubin for custody classification. Rubin gave him a numeric assessment of 10, which resulted in a custody classification of "medium."2 Notwithstanding the fact that Chisolm had worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 13 years and had lived at the same address for 3 years, Rubin described him as an unemployed "vagrant." This error added 2 points to Chisolm's assessment, resulting in his medium custody classification. Without this error, Chisolm's custody classification would have been "minimum."

Also on the morning of September 12, Warden McManimon informed another penal counselor, Donna Walker, that a hearing impaired inmate had been admitted. Walker attempted to communicate with Chisolm through lip reading and writing notes. Chisolm asked Walker to contact Knight and again requested a TDD. Although MCDC did not have a TDD, Walker did contact Knight who brought Chisolm's own TDD to MCDC that same day. MCDC, however, had to log in and examine the TDD before releasing it to Chisolm. For that reason, Chisolm did not receive it until Tuesday, September 13. Because of his hearing disability and the failure of MCDC to provide him with a TDD, Chisolm was not able to use a telephone on Monday, September 12.

On September 13, Chisolm was transferred to cell 24 of 4 North Living Unit, where he remained until his discharge the next day. This unit had a television set equipped with closed captioning. Warden McManimon stated that if Chisolm wanted to have the closed captioning activated, Chisolm only needed to request the service. Chisolm contends, however, that he did not request closed captioning because he did not know that it was available. While in 4 North Living Unit, Chisolm was able to place telephone calls using his own TDD. MCDC did not impose its time limit of 15 minutes for telephone use on Chisolm because of the additional time necessary to type and read text on the TDD.

B. Chisolm's Appearance Before the Mercer County Vicinage

On September 14, 1994, Chisolm was brought before the Mercer County Vicinage

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for an extradition hearing. There was no ASL interpreter present to aid Chisolm. For this reason, the judge postponed the extradition hearing and sent Chisolm back to MCDC. The hearing was rescheduled for September 20, which was the earliest date that the Vicinage's ASL interpreter was available. After his return to MCDC, Chisolm called Knight by TDD. Knight contacted an attorney, Clara Smit.

Smit arranged to have an ASL interpreter available the next morning to interpret court proceedings. Smit also contacted the Bucks County District Attorney's office and had Chisolm's bench warrant quashed. Chisolm was then released from MCDC that same day, and the court hearing was canceled. The parties agree that, but for the intervention by Smit, Chisolm's hearing would have been rescheduled for September 20.

C. Relevant History of the Vicinage 3

The Vicinage originally was organized as one of many locally-funded county courts authorized under Article IV of the New Jersey Constitution. See N.J. Const. art.VI, S 4, P 1-5 (amended 1978). However, pursuant to constitutional amendments passed in 1978, 1983 and 1992, the Vicinage and other county courts have been merged gradually into New Jersey's state-based Superior Court system. See N.J. Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 38 (filed July 25, 1978) (abolishing county courts); N.J. Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 84 (filed Feb. 10, 1983) (authorizing the transition by which county court judges became New Jersey Superior Court Judges without nomination or confirmation); N.J. Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 58, 1992 N.J. Sess. Law Serv. A-3 (West) (setting forth plan by which New Jersey became responsible for certain judicial costs and fees, and county judicial employees became employees of the State, on or before July 1, 1997).

In connection with the transition from a county court system to a state court system and in order to implement the 1992 Amendment, the New Jersey legislature enacted the State Judicial Unification Act, N. J. Stat. SS...

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