Oct. 21, 2009
Renee DeGross Valdes, 404-413-1353
ATLANTA - Ten years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision in Olmstead v. L.C., holding that unjustified isolation of mentally disabled individuals in institutions is a form of disability discrimination prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
As part of the 10th anniversary, Georgia State University College of Law, Atlanta Legal Aid Society and Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP are co-sponsoring a symposium, "The Long Road Home: Perspectives On Olmstead Ten Years Later." It will be held on Friday, Oct. 23 at the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center.
Presentations featured will include disability rights and policy experts, and will explore the impact of the historic decision on the disabled and the future of similar litigation.
"This decision is considered by some to be the disability law parallel to Brown v. Board of Education," said Atlanta Legal Aid Executive Director Steve Gottlieb. "It is a defining moment in the ADA."
The case began in 1995, when Atlanta Legal Aid filed a suit in federal court on behalf of Elaine Wilson and Lois Curtis, who sought to transfer from Georgia Regional Hospital in DeKalb County to a group home where they would continue to receive state-funded treatment.
U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Shoob - the luncheon keynote speaker planned for the event - and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit both ruled in their favor. The State of Georgia appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1999, arguing that states had the right to continue denying community-based services to people with disabilities because it historically had been in their best interest to receive treatment in nursing homes and mental health institutions.
"Elaine and Lois were determined to gain as much independence as they could ... and we were determined to support [them]." said Susan C. (Sue) Jamieson, an attorney with Atlanta Legal Aid who served as lead counsel.
Sutherland partnered with Atlanta Legal Aid in 1998 to file the opposition to the state's petition.
"This was not just any case," said Judith A. O'Brien, Sutherland's Partner and Pro Bono Chair. "This was a case that literally changed the world for mentally disabled individuals who were unnecessarily segregated in mental hospitals."
Following the Supreme Court's decision, Atlanta Legal Aid continued working to ensure Olmstead was implemented appropriately. Sutherland participated in those efforts and filed a class action seeking to extend Olmstead to residents of nursing homes.
Wilson and Curtis left Georgia Regional Hospital in 1995 after filing suit and moved into group homes in metro Atlanta. Wilson passed away in December 2004. Curtis continues to live on her own in a community-based setting. She has found success as a folk artist.
President Barack Obama designated this a "Year of Community Living" to underscore the importance of the Olmstead decision and continue to affirm the nation’s commitment to addressing isolation and discrimination against people with disabilities.
Please visit http://law.gsu.edu/lawreview/index/symposium. Cost is $30, which includes breakfast and lunch. Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits are available. Space is limited and there is currently a waiting list. For more information, contact Laurice Rutledge, the Law Review Symposium editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: The Long Road Home: Perspectives on Olmstead Ten Years Later
When: Friday, Oct. 23 from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Where: The Georgia Tech Global Learning Center, 84 Fifth St. N.W., Atlanta, Ga. 30308