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Disability Advocates Lacks Standing to Bring ADA Housing Claim

By Robyn Hagan Cain on April 09, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit on behalf of mentally ill adults last week, which could limit housing options for 4,300 adult home residents who live in New York City, reports the New York Daily News.

While the underlying claim in the case may have merit, the court found that the plaintiff, Disability Advocates, Inc., lacked standing to bring the lawsuit.

The question before the court was whether Disability Advocates -- a private nonprofit organization that provides services to New York State's protection and advocacy system under the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act (PAIMI) -- had standing to sue state agencies and officials on behalf of mentally disabled adults for an alleged violation of the "integration mandate" of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and a federal grant nondiscrimination provision of the Rehabilitation Act.

Disability Advocates sued the New York Coalition for Quality Assisted Living in 2003 on behalf of its "constituents," individuals with mental illness residing in adult homes in New York City. The group alleged that New York's mental health system violated the ADA integration mandate and the Rehabilitation Act, which require the provision of mental health services "in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities." The district court ruled in favor of Disability Advocates.

In 2010, District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered the state to create 1,500 housing units in New York City over three years, enabling people to leave group homes and live in homes scattered throughout the city, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that order and dismissed the lawsuit last Friday because Disability Advocates did not satisfy the "indicia of membership" requirement for "associational standing," and the federal government's intervention in the case was not enough to cure the lack of standing.

Disability Advocates executive director Carl Zucker is contemplating refiling the claim as a class action lawsuit, according to the New York Daily News.

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