Braille Monitor                         July 2021

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Top Legal Terms Our Readers Might Want to Know

by Valerie Yingling

Valerie YinglingFrom the Editor: Valerie is in charge of coordinating our legal activity, and in addition to being organized, she is articulate. She is also patient, kind, and friendly, but all of this is already known to those of you who have had the pleasure of interacting with her. Here is her latest effort to better inform us as we read about the Federation’s progress in legal matters:

The National Federation of the Blind has influenced our nation’s legal landscape through high-impact disability rights litigation. NFB cases such as National Federation of the Blind v. Target Corp., HM v. Oceanport Board of Education, and Brown et al v. Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services have driven disability rights case law forward for the nation’s blind and set precedence for other disability rights groups.

We know that the NFB’s legal work is important, but do we always know what a judge’s order or a consent decree mean in terms of success? Civil court terminology can be confusing or counterintuitive. This list of top legal terms is designed to help our members better understand our successes and why NFB’s legal program is a central component in our work to remove barriers between blind people and their dreams.

  1. Amicus curiae: Latin for “friend of the court;” plural is amici curiae. Someone who is not party to a lawsuit may advise on the subject of the lawsuit through the filing of written briefs; the court decides whether to consider the information.
    • Used in a sentence: In April 2021, the National Federation of the Blind joined with other disability rights groups to file an amicus curiae brief in the Winn-Dixie Stores v. Gil web accessibility case.
  2. Consent decree: A court-ordered resolution approved by all parties. In comparison, a settlement agreement is not immediately court enforceable. To enforce a settlement agreement, a party would have to file a breach of contract action, which could be a lengthy and expensive process.
    • Used in a sentence: The National Federation of the Blind and Atlantic Cape Community College entered into a consent decree in 2015 to resolve charges of discrimination by blind students and to establish new accessibility policies and procedures for the school.
  3. Declaratory relief: A court ruling regarding someone’s rights.
    • Used in a sentence: In our complaint against Walmart, the National Federation of the Blind seeks declaratory relief regarding how Walmart’s use of inaccessible self-checkout kiosks violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  4. Dismissal with prejudice: A court order that prohibits an identical lawsuit from being filed in the future. In contrast, dismissal without prejudice would permit an identical lawsuit.
    • Used in a sentence: The National Federation of the Blind’s May 2021 voting rights settlement with the state of Maine dismissed our charges with prejudice.
  5. Injunction: A court order that restricts one or more parties from taking a specific action.
    • Used in a sentence: The National Federation of the Blind filed for a preliminary and permanent injunction in our 2020 Pennsylvania voting rights case, Drenth v. Boockvar.
  6. Jurisdiction: A court’s authority to issue a ruling on a case and otherwise enforce the law.
  7. Moot: When a dispute does not exist because it has been resolved or determined to have never existed.
    • Used in a sentence: The National Federation of the Blind joined an appellate court amicus brief for Segal v. Minneapolis Metro Transit after the district court found no evidence of discrimination and ruled that the plaintiff’s request for damages were moot.
  8. Petition for writ of certiorari: Asking a higher court, usually the United States Supreme Court and state level supreme courts, to review a lower court’s ruling. Petition for writ of certiorari is sometimes referred to as “cert petition” or “cert.” When a court denies a petition for writ of certiorari, it means the lower court’s ruling stands.
  9. Remand: When a higher court sends a case back to a lower court, usually because information or facts are disputed.
    • Used in a sentence: The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded Reyazzudin v. Montgomery County, Maryland, in 2015 because facts remained in dispute, including whether the County reasonably accommodated Ms. Reyazuddin and other factors.
  10. Stay: To halt proceedings temporarily or permanently.
  11. Summary Judgment: When a court rules on a case without a trial or further proceedings. In such cases, a court is saying that even if it accepts all of a particular party’s alleged facts as true, the facts do not actually violate the law.
  12. Vacate: To withdraw or invalidate.
    • Used in a sentence: In our 2018 lawsuit against the US Department of Education, the National Federation of the Blind, alongside the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), sought a judge’s order to vacate § 108(t) of the 2018 OCR Manual and reinstate the manual’s appeals process.

For more information about the National Federation of the Blind’s legal program, please visit https://nfb.org/programs-services/legal-program or contact Valerie Yingling, legal program coordinator.

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