Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Rankin v. City of Mansfield

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

May 17, 2017

HUEY RANKIN,
v.
CITY OF MANSFIELD

          HORNSBY, MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          S. MAURICE HICKS, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs Huey Rankin (“Rankin”) and Israel Purvis' (“Purvis”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”) Motion to Enforce Consent Decree (Record Document 48). Plaintiffs seek a court order that Defendant the City of Mansfield (“the City”) must comply with its obligations under the Court's August, 26, 2004, Partial Consent Judgment (the “consent judgment”) (Record Document 27). For the reasons stated in the instant Memorandum Ruling, a final ruling on Plaintiffs' Motion to Enforce Consent Decree is hereby DEFERRED until after a hearing on the City's grounds for equitable modification of the consent decree is held.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On March 10, 2003, Plaintiffs filed the instant action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the City and two private parties owning land and operating businesses in Mansfield. See Record Document 1. Plaintiffs sought a declaration that several specific sidewalks within Mansfield did not comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and various other related federal and state statutes. See id. Plaintiffs eventually voluntarily dismissed all claims against both of the private parties. See Record Documents 24 and 28.

         On August 26, 2004, Plaintiffs and the City entered into the consent judgment that is the subject of the instant Motion. See Record Document 27. The consent judgment provides that the City shall: (1) install ADA-compliant curb ramps and accessible pathways on new sidewalks and altered sidewalks in Mansfield; (2) maintain all existing and future sidewalks, curb ramps, and pathways as ADA-compliant; (3) complete all work necessary to make certain existing sidewalks, curb ramps, and pathways in Mansfield ADA-compliant by set deadlines; (4) ensure that all future contracts for construction or alteration of streets, sidewalks, curb ramps, and pathways contain specific requirements to make them ADA-compliant; (5) provide to Plaintiffs' counsel both a list of all sidewalks and places where pedestrian walks cross curbs in areas in Mansfield that contain state or local government offices or businesses serving the public generally, and a schedule for bringing those sidewalks that are not yet ADA-compliant into compliance; and (6) pay $2, 500 in attorney's fees to Plaintiffs. See id. The consent judgment specifically defines the term “ADA-compliant” as used in the consent judgment as follows:

Compliant with the requirements of Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., and 28 C.F.R. Part 36, App. A. When referring to a curb ramp, these requirements include, but are not limited to, 28 C.F.R. Part 36, App. A §§4.7 and 4.8. When referring to a sidewalk or pathway, these requirements include, but are not limited to, 28 C.F.R. Part 36, App. A §§4.3 and 4.5.

Id. at ¶ 12.

         As required by the consent judgment, within 180 days of the signing of the consent judgment the City provided Plaintiffs' counsel with both (1) a list of all relevant sidewalks in Mansfield and (2) a schedule for bringing all non-compliant sidewalks into ADA-compliance (the “compliance schedule”). See Record Documents 48-1 (the list of relevant sidewalks in Mansfield, both ADA-compliant and non-compliant) and 48-2 (the compliance schedule). The compliance schedule contains specific work for the City to perform each year on particular city sidewalks that the City identified in the compliance schedule as not yet ADA-compliant, with the last work contained in the compliance schedule to be performed in 2025. See Record Document 48-2. For example, in 2017, one requirement that the City must meet under the compliance schedule is to “perform sidewalk and ramping work on both sides of Polk Street from Railroad Tracks to Lake Road to bring area into full compliance with the ADA.” Id. at 2. Under the consent judgment, the City “shall provide such sidewalks and curb ramps according to such schedule.” Record Document 27 at ¶ 11.

         The Court had no more involvement with the instant action until August 5, 2010, when Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Civil Contempt. See Record Document 31. In that Motion, Plaintiffs sought a declaration that the City was in contempt of the consent judgment and an order requiring the City to take action to bring itself into compliance with the consent judgment. See id. The parties eventually worked out an agreement on this Motion, and provided a Joint Status Report to the Court on February 15, 2011. See Record Document 43. The Court administratively terminated this Motion on March 3, 2011. See Record Document 44. Plaintiffs filed the instant Motion to Enforce Consent Decree on December 14, 2016, and the Motion is fully briefed. See Record Documents 48, 52, and 55.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         I. Legal Standards

         A. Overview of the ADA

         The ADA is the product of “decades of deliberation and investigation into the need for comprehensive legislation to address discrimination against persons with disabilities.” Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509, 516 (2004). “The ADA is designed to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities." Id., quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12101(b)(4). Title II of the ADA “prohibits any public entity from discriminating against ‘qualified' persons with disabilities in the provision or operation of public services, programs, or activities.” Id. at 517. Local government entities like cities are included within the ADA's definition of a “public entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12131(1).

         The ADA also granted the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) the authority to promulgate regulations to implement the ADA. See 42 U.S.C. § 12134 (specifically granting such authority with respect to Title II of the ADA). For Title II of the ADA, these regulations are found at 28 C.F.R. § 35.101, et. seq. Under 28 C.F.R. § 35.151(a) and (b), “each facility or part of a facility” that is either “constructed” or “altered” by a public entity after January 26, 1992, must be “readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.” The term “facility” includes all “walks” and “passageways.” 28 C.F.R. § 35.104.

         Under 28 C.F.R. § 35.151(c), public entities are required to construct newly-built or altered facilities using the specifications provided in one of several different versions of ADA guidelines. The date on which the physical construction or alteration of the facility commences determines the version of the guidelines with which the construction or alteration of the facility must comply. See 28 C.F.R. § 35.151(c). The United States Access Board (the “Access Board”) first published the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (“ADAAG”) in 1991, guidelines that the DOJ adopted as binding regulations and originally published as Appendix A to 28 C.F.R. Part 36. On July 23, 2004, the Access Board published a new version of the ADAAG, which was codified at 36 C.F.R. 1191, app. B and D (2009). See 28 C.F.R. Part 36, app. A (explaining some of the history of the ADA's accompanying regulations). On September 15, 2010, the DOJ adopted the 2004 ADAAG as binding regulations and added some additional requirements, those found in subpart D of 28 C.F.R. Part 36, §§ 36.401-406. See id. In promulgating the 2010 ADAAG, the DOJ also moved the 1991 ADAAG from its former location at 28 C.F.R. Part 36, app. A, to 28 C.F.R. Part 36, app. D. See id.

         Under this complex scheme, if the physical construction or alteration of the facility commenced after July 26, 1992, but prior to September 15, 2010, the construction or alteration had to conform to the 1991 ADAAG's specifications. See 28 C.F.R. § 35.151(c)(1).[1] If it commenced after September 15, 2010, but before March 15, 2012, it had to conform to either the specifications of the 1991 ADAAG or the 2010 ADAAG. See 28 C.F.R. § 35.151(c)(2). For all construction or alteration of facilities after March 15, 2012, such construction or alteration must conform to the 2010 ADAAG. See 28 C.F.R. § 151(c)(3).

         B. Consent Judgments

         Consent judgments are both enforceable judicial orders and contracts that must be interpreted as such. See United States v. Chromalloy Am. Corp., 158 F.3d 345, 349 (5th Cir. 1998) (“general principles of contract interpretation govern the interpretation of a consent decree”). Interpretation of consent judgments, like contracts, begins with the “four corners of the order itself.” Id. at 350; see also La. C.C. art. 2046. When a contract specifically defines a term, courts must interpret that term as defined in the contract. See In re Katrina Canal Breaches Consol. Litig. v. Encompass Ins. Co., 466 F.Supp.2d 729 (E.D. La. 2006) (extensively discussing insurance policies that specifically defined policy exclusions and the consequences of these different definitions for whether certain damage was covered), aff'd in part by In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191 (5th Cir. 2007). “When a contract is expressed in unambiguous language, its terms will be given their plain meaning and enforced as written.” Chromalloy Am. Corp., 158 F.3d at 349; see also La. C.C. art. 2046 (“when the words of a contract are clear and lead to no absurd consequences, no further interpretation may be made in search of the parties' intent”). “A contract provision is not ambiguous where only one of two competing ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.