May 12, 2023
The Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in Lou v. Lopinto, a private lawsuit against the Sheriff of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, and several Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies (defendants). The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana by the parents of a sixteen-year-old with autism who died while the defendants were responding to the child’s disability-related acute sensory episode, or “outburst.” One of the lawsuit’s claims is that the defendants discriminated against the child based on disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), when they did not reasonably accommodate the child’s known disability while interacting with and restraining the child. The department filed the Statement of Interest to clarify how Title II of the ADA applies to law enforcement encounters with people experiencing disability-related crises. The department’s brief explains that law enforcement agencies can violate the ADA by failing to provide people with disabilities with an equal opportunity to benefit from their services when officers respond to emergency calls. Law enforcement officers can also violate the ADA by failing to reasonably modify their procedures when interacting with people with disabilities. Finally, the department explains that the Fifth Circuit’s exigent circumstances exception should not bar this ADA claim. The Statement of Interest can be read here. To find out more about the ADA, visit ada.gov or call the Justice Department's toll-free ADA information line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-833-610-1264 (TDD).