Disability Law Center Deputy Director Featured in Minnesota Lawyer

Pamela Hoopes

Pamela Hoopes

This summer Minnesota Lawyer announced its 2018 Diversity & Inclusion honorees as part of its commitment to diversity in our judicial system. Honorees were named in legacy, individual and group categories.

During the month of October, the magazine will celebrate the contributions of these recipients by featuring them individually. Currently featured in the individual category is honoree Pamela Hoopes, deputy director/legal director of the Minnesota Disability Law Center (MDLC) of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid.

Hoopes’ contributions to diversity and inclusion span 20 years, during which she has championed the rights of disabled Minnesotans, primarily by helping them gain access to the courts. She supervises MDLC’s legal work, in addition to lending her experience as a trainer on disability law. Read more about Hoopes in Minnesota Lawyer.

Minnesota Disability Law Center Produces Voting Rights Video

The Minnesota Disability Law Center (MDLC) of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid has produced a 15-minute video about voting rights for people with disabilities in Minnesota. The video features members of the disability community, MMLA volunteers and staff, disability rights advocates, and Minnesota Secretary of State Steven Simon.  Viewers will learn about barriers to voting for people with disabilities, what changed with 2002’s Help America Vote Act, and the responsibilities of state and federal officials to provide accessibility. MDLC Attorney Justin Page explains what to do if something goes wrong during the voting process, and the video concludes with comments on the importance of voting if you are a disabled Minnesotan. 

Watch and share "Disability Rights: Voting in Minnesota." 

Disability Law Center Wins Class Certification Motion in Federal Court

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This fall, the Minnesota Disability Law Center of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA) was successful in obtaining class certification on behalf of individuals with disabilities who are unnecessarily segregated in corporate foster care facilities. A decision was issued by the United States District Court in Murphy et. al. v. Piper et. al, which certified a class action for individuals with disabilities who want to live near family and friends. With this ruling, the federal court is allowing a challenge to the statewide practice of overreliance on corporate foster care settings as housing for those with disabilities and its failure to provide persons with disabilities information and access to reasonable and individualized alternatives. Moreover, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to consider the Department of Human Services’ request to reverse the certification order, so the case will now proceed through discovery and trial, if necessary. In failing to provide citizens with disabilities the opportunity to live in individualized settings, Minnesota has not been consistent with federal law. One of the lawyers for the Plaintiffs, Sean Burke, stated "We simply want a system in place that allows individuals with disabilities to live where they want, like everyone else, and in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs."

Legal Aid staff who were instrumental in the achievement of this action include staff attorneys Sean Burke and Christen Champman, litigation director Justin Perl, Steven Pincus, Peter McGelliot, and Joe Anthony of the Anthony Ostlund law firm (co-counsel), and supervising attorney Bud Rosenfield. The decision can be found here.

Equal Access to Communication

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Legal Aid's Minnesota Disability Law Center (MDLC) is a vital resource for those whose rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Minnesota Human Rights Act are in peril. Upholding equal access to communication is one of the hallmarks of MDLC's work. In a recent case, an MDLC client was denied access to routine bank transactions because his credit union changed its policies about accepting IP relay calls for deaf customers, making his access far more difficult than that of hearing customers.

"It's a pleasure to represent a client who is willing to speak out for their rights," said staff attorney Rick MacPherson, counsel on the case. "One person's willingness to enforce the law can bring about equal access for others who are deaf to the services and benefits everyone else enjoys." Read the full article in Attorney at Law magazine.