Front of Thurgood Marshall Courthouse, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, at night with lighting. View looking up at the front of a courthouse with several tall pillars, lit up by lights.

On May 24, 2021, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association (“DHHBA”) joined with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (“ASAN”), the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”), and thirty-two other advocacy organizations to file an amicus brief encouraging broad enforcement of civil rights laws protecting people from discrimination based on disability, race, religion, and sex. Click here to read the amicus brief.


The brief asked the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to reconsider a ruling that limited Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 — an important disability rights law — to just those parts of the New York Unified Court System that directly received federal funding. This meant that the law would not provide any protections to those taking the New York Bar Examination (which is a required exam for any lawyer to pass in order to practice law in the state), or to those appearing before state courts of appeal.


The ruling would also set a dangerous precedent that could weaken other major civil rights laws. This includes the Civil Rights Restoration Act (“CRRA”), which states that when a state agency receives funding from the federal government, all parts of that agency need to follow certain civil rights laws that protects against discrimination based on disability, race, religion, and sex. DHHBA and other organizations are concerned that the Second Circuit’s ruling could affect these other civil rights laws as well.


Other organizations joining the amicus brief included the Disability Rights Advocates, National Center for Law and Economic Justice, National Women’s Law Center, Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network, National Disability Rights Network, and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. A full list of organizations is included in the brief.


As of June 8, 2021, the Second Circuit denied the petition for rehearing or rehearing en banc (to have the case heard by the full bench). This was not entirely unforeseen as such petitions are rarely granted, but DHHBA’s advocacy efforts continue onwards.