Posts Tagged ‘service animals’

Third Circuit: neighbors who criticized condo residents over emotional support dogs must face civil rights suit

In blog posts and comments, two residents of a Virgin Islands condominium complex criticized two other residents who were (in line with rights prescribed to them under federal law) keeping emotional-support dogs despite a no-dog rule in the complex. Among other statements, one or the other of the two said dog owners would be “happier in another community,” speculated that “diploma mill” paperwork could certify any canine whose owner cared to claim stress, suggested the complex should “lawyer up” and be prepared to go to court to defend its rule against “known violators,” and proposed the dog owners be “ostracized” by other residents.

The dog-owning residents sued the neighbors, along with the condo association and other defendants. They cited federal legal interpretations, which have since been buttressed by a regulation issued in the Obama administration, that hold it “hostile environment harassment” under the Fair Housing Act to make statements that “interfere” with another’s exercise of rights under the law.

Now the Third Circuit, as part of a decision resolving numerous issues about the case, reversed grants of summary judgment in favor of the two blog writers and ruled that they could properly be sued for damages for creating a hostile environment under the Fair Housing Act. It described as “harassment” various instances of their critical speech and noted that a single instance of harassing speech could give rise to liability under the law. It is not clear whether the parties raised, and the court did not make any gesture toward considering, whether some or all of the statements involved might be protected by the First Amendment, which is mentioned nowhere in the opinion. [Revock v. Cowpet Bay West Condominium Association et al., see relevant section VI, pp. 31-41 of opinion via John Ross, Short Circuit]

As Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has pointed out, the Ninth Circuit in 2000 slapped down federal officials for having investigated Berkeley, Calif. residents who had fought a housing project that they believed would bring mentally ill residents or recovering substance abusers (both protected as disabled under the Fair Housing Act) to their neighborhood. “It found this principle was so plain and obvious that it denied individual civil rights officials qualified immunity for” having investigated the citizens. That case [White v. Lee] would appear to stand for the proposition that the First Amendment provides robust protection for much speech that criticizes, opposes, and disparages others’ exercise of rights under the Fair Housing Act, and that the speech does not lose protection just because others regard it as retaliatory or discouraging to the exercise of rights.

More: Hans Bader, Scott Greenfield, and Eric Goldman, who got to the case before either of us.

March 15 roundup

  • A workplace hazard? Push in Britain to “make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work.” [Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason]
  • Service dogs on planes: “a ‘credible verbal assurance’ books Fido a trip to San Francisco for the weekend” [David Post, Volokh Conspiracy] Australia, too, sees trend toward exotic service and emotional-support animals [Workplace Prof; earlier]
  • Trial lawyers would like Supreme Court to squash the arbitration alternative, but few signs Judge Gorsuch is on board with that plan [Edith Roberts, SCOTUSBlog]
  • New York radical lawyer Lynne Stewart, not a favorite in these columns, dead at 77 [Scott Johnson, PowerLine, earlier]
  • Baltimore police scandal, “yes means yes” bill for MoCo schools, homicide rap for overdose suppliers?, school wi-fi scare, Tom Perez, and more in my Maryland policy roundup [Free State Notes]
  • Suing so soon over White House regulatory reform, Public Citizen, and with so little show of injury? [Brian Mannix, Law and Liberty]

Schools roundup

September 30 roundup

  • “In reality, government officials often have strong incentives to mandate warnings that are misleading or flat-out wrong” [Ilya Somin] George Akerlof and Robert Shiller’s analysis of consumers as fools leaves something to be desired [Alex Tabarrok, New Rambler Review]
  • “The suppression of competition [is] a core driver of skyrocketing inequality.” New Steven Teles article sure to be much discussed touches on occupational entry restriction, land values inflated by municipal regulation, many other topics of interest [National Affairs]
  • “Patterico Prevails: Vexatious Legal Attack on Speech Fails” [Popehat]
  • On the topic of legal remedies against looks-ism, which I wrote about in The Excuse Factory, C-SPAN airs my comments as a counterpoint to Prof. Rhode [video, begins 1:30, more including transcript]
  • “How copyright is killing your favorite memes” [Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post “Intersect”]
  • University of Nebraska/Kearney agrees to pay $140,000 to two former students for not allowing psychological support dogs in dorms [Department of Justice press release]
  • Regulation of child care provision drives up costs, has unintended consequences [Diana Thomas and Devon Gorry, Mercatus]

Disabled rights roundup

  • Per The Economist, long-awaited Justice Department rules decreeing ADA accessibility for websites (earlier here, here, etc.) expected any day now, “in June. For example, each picture must have text describing it, so that screen-reader programs can tell blind people what is there.” Individual enforcement actions, as against Peapod, aren’t waiting [DoJ press release] Settlement with MOOC firm signals DOJ plans to deal with online education providers [Cooley] Contributor believes it’s a snap to include online captioning in all online Harvard and MIT courses, so what’re they waiting for? [Time]
  • Rest of the Economist article is of interest too, especially on ADA filing mills in Florida and elsewhere;
  • In Sheehan v. San Francisco, Ninth Circuit created right to ADA accommodation in confrontations with law enforcers, SCOTUS reversed on other (qualified immunity) grounds [Mark Pulliam, City Journal; Richard Re, Prawfs]
  • Commemorations of 25th anniversary of the ADA — here’s what I had to say about the 20th — include plans “to hold [various Chicago institutions] publicly accountable for their commitments” to, inter alia, “increase civic engagement around disability issues” [Michael Waterstone, Prawfs]
  • Sacramento: “Squeeze Inn owner joins fight against costly ADA lawsuits” [KCRA]
  • Spread of fake service dog paraphernalia alarms groups that work with actual service dogs [BBC]
  • Intended class-action plaintiff sues McDonald’s over new style Coca-Cola Freestyle dispensers, saying touchscreen format unfair to disabled users [BigClassAction.com]

February 5 roundup

  • In November I wrote in Jurist on a Third Circuit panel’s refusal to order that sports great Jim Thorpe be disinterred and reburied under provisions of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA); in response, Elizabeth Varner, Diane Penneys Edelman and Leila Amineddoleh of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation argue that the panel could have based its result on specific language in the statute rather than via the roundabout path it did take [Jurist]
  • Electing judges, a relic of Jacksonianism, still generating problems today [John Steele Gordon, Commentary]
  • “Obama issues ‘executive orders by another name'” [USA Today on Presidential “memoranda”; earlier on executive orders]
  • “Legislators Say E-Cigarette Companies Are Bound by an Agreement Reached Before They Existed” [Jacob Sullum]
  • Woman upset at exclusion of service kangaroo but agrees to leave McDonald’s [AP, Wisconsin News, earlier (although local law may vary, federal government these days takes view that aside from qualified dogs and some miniature horses, ADA does not require businesses to accept customers’ service animals)]
  • Join the crowd: “Various plaintiffs v. various defendants,” an actual case caption [Lowering the Bar]
  • “..the very kind of odious racialization of politics that Congress wrote the Voting Rights Act to forbid” [Ilya Shapiro]