June 3, 2019 (NEW YORK)— International law firm Proskauer reached a settlement in a prominent pro bono case on behalf of deaf and hard of hearing probationers and parolees under the supervision of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (LDPSC). This was the first case nationwide to assert the right to an ASL interpreter on behalf of probationers and parolees.

The settlement agreement provides meaningful protections to all deaf and hard of hearing probationers and parolees by requiring the LDPSC to provide qualified, certified ASL interpreters at any interaction that impacts the freedom or sentence of a deaf or hard of hearing probationer or parolee, including criminal investigations and internal investigations that could result in the filing of criminal charges or revocation hearings.  Additionally, under the terms of the agreement, the LDSPC must (i) conduct communication assessments on an annual basis to determine the auxiliary aid or service that deaf or severely hard of hearing probationers and parolees require to communicate effectively; and (ii) provide qualified, certified ASL interpreters at initial intake meetings, and at all classes or treatment programs required as a condition of supervision. 

The Complaint in this action alleged that the LDPSC was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act by failing to provide qualified, certified American Sign Language interpreters at interactions with probation and parole officers, as well as classes and programs that probationers and parolees are required to attend as a condition of their supervision.  On many occasions, clients were not provided any interpreters, including at high-stakes interactions that could, and did, impact their freedom. On occasions where interpreters were provided, the LDPSC utilized individuals who are incarcerated and who had not obtained proper certification.

The Proskauer team was led by partner Russell Hirschhorn, and included associates Russell Gorkin, Om Alladi, Rachel Gulotta, Samantha Shear, David Munkittrick, and Lindsey Chopin. The Advocacy Center and Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs served as co-counsel.