United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
HORNSBY, MAGISTRATE JUDGE
MAURICE HICKS, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
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.
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.
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.
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.
Overview of 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. §
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.
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.
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). 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).
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 ...