The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wolin, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on the motion of Plaintiffs, Jorge
and Jessica Soto (the "Sotos") for partial summary judgment as to
liability pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and on the
cross-motion of Defendants, the City of Newark and the Newark Municipal
Court (collectively, "Defendants"), for summary judgment to dismiss the
Complaint, with prejudice pursuant to Rule 56. The Court has considered
the matter pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the
reasons stated below, the Plaintiffs' motion will be granted in part and
denied in part. Furthermore, the Defendants' motion will be granted in
part and denied in part.
On three occasions, the Sotos requested that the Defendant, the
Municipal Court, accommodate their disability by providing a qualified
sign-language interpreter. (Df.Stat.Undis. Facts ¶¶ 9-11). The
Municipal Court repeatedly rejected their requests. (Id.). First, on
December 3, the Municipal Court rejected Jessica Soto's request for an
interpreter for her wedding. (Id. ¶ 9). The Municipal Court informed
her that it does not provide interpreters for weddings. (Id.). After
that, on December 14, the Municipal Court rejected the same request made
by Jessica Soto's father, Luis Silva. (Id. ¶ 10). Finally, on the day
of the wedding, the Municipal Court rejected Jorge Soto's request. (Id.
Because the Municipal Court wedding was conducted without a
sign-language interpreter, the Sotos could not understand much of the
proceedings. (Jorge Soto Certif. ¶ 3; Jessica Soto Certif. ¶ 4).
Indeed, as a result of their disability, they did not fully understand
their vows or the words spoken by the presiding judge. (Jorge Soto
Certif. ¶ 3; Jessica Soto Certif. ¶ 4-5).
Seeking to redress alleged injuries, the Sotos filed a Complaint in the
Essex County Superior Court. The Defendants removed the action to this
Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. In the Complaint, they claim that
Defendants' conduct violated Title II of the American with Disabilities
Act ("ADA"), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ("RA"), and the New
Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("LAD").*fn1 They also assert a common
law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The Sotos now seek partial summary judgment on liability concerning the
ADA, RA, and LAD claims. Defendants oppose the motion. Defendants also
cross-move for summary judgment seeking a dismissal of the Complaint in
its entirety. Defendants maintain that the ADA, RA, and LAD do not
require them to provide sign-language interpreters at Municipal Court
wedding ceremonies. Defendants further maintain that a public entity may
not be found liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
I. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment shall be granted if "the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Hersh v. Allen Prods. Co.,
789 F.2d 230, 232 (3d Cir. 1986). In making this determination, a court
must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant. See Meyer
v. Riegel Prods. Corp., 720 F.2d 303, 307 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1983), cert.
dismissed, 465 U.S. 1091, 104 S.Ct. 2144, 79 L.Ed.2d 910 (1984). Whether
a fact is "material" is determined by the substantive law defining the
claims. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106
S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); United States v. 225 Cartons,
871 F.2d 409, 419 (3d Cir. 1989). The burden is upon the moving party to
show an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).
When the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the
moving party's burden can be "discharged by `showing'—that is,
pointing out to the District Court—that there is an absence of
evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at
325, 106 S.Ct. 2548. If the moving party has carried its burden of
establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the burden
shifts to the non-moving party to "do more than simply show that there is
some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89
L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). When the non-moving party's evidence in opposition to
a properly-supported motion for summary judgment is merely "colorable" or
"not significantly probative," the Court may grant summary judgment. See
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505.
Further, when a non-moving party who bears the burden of proof at trial
has failed, in opposition to a motion for summary judgment, to raise a
disputed fact issue as to any essential element of his or her claim,
summary judgment should be granted because "a complete failure of proof
concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily
renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23, 106
Before the enactment of the ADA, Congress recognized that "current laws
were `inadequate' to combat the `pervasive problems of discrimination
that people with disabilities are facing.'" Helen L. v. DiDario,
46 F.3d 325, 331 (3d Cir. 1995) (quoting S.Rep. No. 116, 101st Cong., 1st
Sess. 18 (1989); H.R.Rep. No. 485 (II), 101st Cong., 2d Sess. 47 (1990)
U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 1989 pp. 303, 329). Congress found that
"discrimination against individuals with disabilities persists in such
critical areas as . . . access to public services."
42 U.S.C. § 12101(a)(4). Congress also found that "individuals with
disabilities continually encounter various forms of discrimination
including . . . communication barriers." Id. § 12101(a)(5).
As a result of this discrimination, Congress enacted the ADA. Through
the ADA, Congress sought "to provide a clear and comprehensive national
mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with
disabilities." Id. § 12101(b)(1).
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against the disabled in
public services. See 42 U.S.C. § 12132; Civic Ass'n of the Deaf v.
Giuliani, 915 F. Supp. 622, 634 (S.D.N.Y. 1996). Title II provides that:
no qualified individual with a disability shall, by
reason of such disability, be excluded from
participation in or be denied the benefits of the
services, programs, or activities of a public entity,
or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.
42 U.S.C. § 12132. Thus, to show a violation of title II, a plaintiff
must prove that (1) he is a "qualified individual with a disability;" (2)
he is being excluded from participation in or being denied the benefits
of some "services, programs, or activities," by reason of his
disability; and (3) the entity which provides the service, program or
activity is a public entity.*fn2 See, e.g., Layton v. Elder, 143 F.3d 469,
472 (8th Cir. 1998); Bowers v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, ACT,
Inc., 9 F. Supp.2d 460, 475 (D.N.J. 1998); Adelman
v. Dunmire, No. Civ-A. 95-4039, 1997 WL 164240 (E.D.Pa. Mar. 28, 1997),
aff'd, 149 F.3d 1163 ...