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Firm Wins Disability/Handicap Discrimination Federal Court Appeal Victory For The Deaf

United States District Court Illinois Northern District, Eastern Division (September 2008)

Our law firm won a major court victory for deaf job applicants and workers in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Our deaf client is an attorney who obtained a J.D. Degree from Quinnpiac University School of Law and an LLM degree in taxation from Georgetown University Law Center. He applied to work as a tax consultant. He claimed that in a subsequent telephone conversation conducted through a Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS), Defendent offered him a job interview which they later retracted after learning that he was deaf during that TRS conversation.

Defendent that the case be dismissed, arguing that the TRS discussion was inadmissible hearsay and could not be considered in the case. The district judge dismissed the case on the grounds that our client could not testify to the contents of the conversation with the employer. According to the district judge, testimony regarding communications through TRS is inadmissible hearsay because a third person is involved who translates between the hearing person and the deaf person.

Our law firm appealed that decision to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals with the assistance of attorneys from the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) as well as the EEOC and U.S. Department of Justice. On appeal, we argued that a TRS conversation involving deaf persons should be treated the same way as telephone conversations between two hearing people which are admissible in evidence.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with us. It overturned the decision of district judge and ruled that testimony of TRS conversations involving deaf persons are admissible just like telephone conversations between hearing people. This ground-breaking decision bears major significance for the deaf as it ensures that they can conduct day-to-day business activities through TRS without fear that their testimony regarding the transactions would not stand up in court. The decision is further remarkable as it is the first case in the Seventh Circuit jurisdiction that has ruled on the issue. In fact, no Court of Appeals had addressed the admissibility of the statements made in a TRS conversation prior to this opinion.

Needless to say that our victorious client, law firm, as well as attorneys from NAD are ecstatic about the outcome of the appeal. The case has now been assigned to a new district court judge who will set a trial date in January 2009.

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