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Chisolm v. Manimon

May 18, 2000


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cooper, District Judge



Ronald Chisolm, who is deaf, commenced this action in March 1995, alleging principally that his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. ("ADA"), under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 ("Rehabilitation Act"), and under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-4.1 ("LAD"), were violated while he was housed at the Mercer County Detention Center ("MCDC") from September 10, 1994 to September 14, 1994. (Compl. filed 3-6-95; Am. Compl. filed 3-25-96.) This matter is presently before the Court on the parties' motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff has moved for summary judgment as to liability on the ADA, Rehabilitation Act, and LAD claims. The only remaining defendant, former Director of MCDC Patrick McManimon, *fn1 has moved for summary judgment on all claims. For the reasons explained below, plaintiff's motion will be denied and defendant's motion will be granted.


In 1987, Ronald Chisolm was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol ("DUI") in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. His sentence for the DUI conviction included a requirement that he complete an intoxicated-driver resource course. According to Chisolm, there were delays in providing him with an interpreter for the course. As a result, Chisolm did not complete the course and in 1990, a warrant for his arrest was issued by Bucks County authorities because he had not fulfilled his DUI sentence. (Pl.'s Br. in Supp. at 3; Def.'s Br. in Supp. at 1.)

On September 10, 1994, while driving in Princeton Borough, Chisolm was stopped by the police because of the Bucks County warrant. The Princeton police arrested Chisolm and brought him to MCDC to await a hearing on his extradition to Pennsylvania. (Pl.'s Br. in Supp. at 3; Def.'s Br. in Supp. at 1.)

Chisolm arrived at MCDC at 3:40 p.m. on Saturday, September 10, 1994. (Certif. of Clara R. Smit, Esq. filed 5-5-00 ("Smit Certif."), Ex. F, MCDC face sheet for Ronald Chisolm.) He initially was placed in the Receiving and Discharge ("R&D") Unit, an area of the jail where newly arrived inmates were held until their proper housing placement within the institution could be determined. (Aff. of Patrick McManimon filed 5-5-00 ("McManimon Aff."), ¶¶ 5-7.) Later that day, Chisolm was interviewed by an MCDC staff nurse and it was determined that he presented a suicide risk. (Def.'s Br. in Supp., Ex. B, Dep. of Ronald Chisolm ("Chisolm Dep.") at 71; McManimon Aff. ¶ 7.) Therefore, Chisolm remained in the R&D Unit on suicide watch until Tuesday, September 13, 1994, when he was no longer a suicide risk and could be placed in general population. (Smit Certif., Ex. C, MCDC Movement History of Ronald Chisolm; Smit Certif., Ex. D, Certif. of Kenneth Knight ("Knight Certif.") ¶¶ 5, 7.) From September 13th until September 14th, Chisolm was housed on the 4 North living unit. (Def.'s Br. in Supp. at 1; Smit Certif., Ex. C, MCDC Movement History of Ronald Chisolm.) On September 14, 1994, Chisolm's lawyer reached an agreement with the Bucks County prosecutor on a method for fulfilling his obligation to attend an intoxicated-driver course. The prosecutor therefore quashed the warrant and Chisolm was released from MCDC. (Smit Certif., Ex. G, Ltr. from Ellis B. Klein, Bucks County Assistant District Attorney, to Clara Smit, Esq., dated 9-16-94.)

During the weekend of September 10-11, 1994, Chisolm communicated with MCDC staff primarily in writing. (Chisolm Dep. at 20-21.) He requested to use a telecommunications device for the deaf ("TDD"), but was told that the jail did not have one. *fn2 (Id. at 22.) On the morning of Monday, September 12th, defendant McManimon learned that a deaf inmate had arrived at MCDC over the weekend and McManimon assigned Donna Walker, a program services penal counselor, to assist Chisolm. (Def.'s Br. in Supp., Ex. C, Dep. of Donna Walker ("Walker Dep.") at 6; McManimon Aff. ¶ 8.) Whenever Chisolm wanted to see Walker, he would hand a note to a guard, asking that she be summoned. (Chisolm Dep. at 40.) Chisolm communicated with Walker primarily through written notes, with some limited English speech by Chisolm to Walker. (Id. at 31; Walker Dep. at 13, 74.) Although MCDC staff usually are not allowed to contact third parties for inmates, Walker was allowed to make such contacts at Chisolm's request. For example, Walker contacted Chisolm's roommate and an alcohol treatment program that was instrumental in fulfilling the conditions for Chisolm's release. (McManimon Aff. ¶ 14; Walker Dep. at 14, 36-37.) In addition, when McManimon was informed by Walker that MCDC did not have a TDD, he directed that one be purchased. (McManimon Aff. ¶ 11.)

To permit Chisolm to communicate by telephone despite MCDC's inability to furnish a TDD immediately, Chisolm's roommate, Kenneth Knight, was allowed to bring Chisolm's own TDD to the jail. (Walker Dep. at 16.) Knight delivered Chisolm's TDD to MCDC on Monday, September 12, 1994. (Knight Certif. ¶ 6.) Like all items brought into MCDC, the TDD had to be searched for contraband before any inmate could be permitted access to it. After the necessary security procedures had been completed, the TDD was given to Chisolm on Tuesday, September 13th. (McManimon Aff. ¶ 10; Chisolm Dep. at 25-26, 28.) The TDD could not be kept in Chisolm's cell because it might have been possible for inmates to fashion parts of the TDD into weapons. (McManimon Aff. ¶ 12.) When Chisolm wished to use the TDD, he would ask a guard to bring Walker to see him. Walker then would have Chisolm released from his cell and would allow him to make the desired call with the TDD. (Walker Dep. at 23, 33-35, 106, 124-25; Chisolm Dep. at 40, 69.) Although other inmates usually were subject to a fifteen-minute time limit on telephone calls, Chisolm was permitted to make calls using the TDD without any time limit. (Walker Dep. at 35, 110-11, 121; Chisolm Dep. at 69.)

Chisolm first requested an interpreter when he spoke to Donna Walker on Monday, September 12th. (Chisolm Dep. at 37.) Although MCDC staff did not play any role in the scheduling of court dates for inmates, Walker was concerned that the court should be made aware of Chisolm's need for an interpreter. Walker therefore called an unidentified woman at the Mercer County Superior Court and received assurances that the court would provide an interpreter for Chisolm's extradition hearing. (Walker Dep. at 24-29, 70-71.) Walker also called various agencies which provide assistance to deaf persons, attempting unsuccessfully to locate an interpreter who might be available, if need arose, to assist Chisolm in communicating with his lawyer or in, e.g., any disciplinary proceedings or challenges to classification status at MCDC. (Id. at 30-32, 71-72, 97-98; McManimon Aff. ¶ 13.) Walker was not seeking an interpreter to assist Chisolm with his routine communications with staff at MCDC, because she knew that security considerations would not permit the presence of a civilian in the inmate housing areas of the jail. (Walker Dep. at 71-72; McManimon Aff. ¶ 13.)

Inmates at MCDC had access to a television on some but not all of the living units. (Walker Dep. at 85-90.) On the R&D Unit, where Chisolm was housed from September 10 to 13, 1994, there was no television. (Id. at 120; McManimon Aff. ¶¶ 6, 7.) On the 4 North tier, where Chisolm was housed from September 13th until his release on September 14th, inmates could watch a television in a common area during the times of day when they were allowed out of their cells. (Walker Dep. at 85-90.) The televisions at MCDC were equipped with closed captioning which could be activated upon an inmate's request. (Id. at 92; McManimon Aff. ¶ 16.)

Chisolm filed this action on March 6, 1995, originally naming as a defendant, in addition to McManimon, the Judiciary of New Jersey, Mercer Vicinage ("Mercer Vicinage"). *fn3 (Compl. filed 3-6-95.) By Order entered June 11, 1997, the Honorable Garrett E. Brown, Jr., to whom this action originally was assigned, dismissed all claims against Mercer Vicinage. The Court reasoned that: (1) the ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims against Mercer Vicinage were without merit because Mercer Vicinage did not exclude Chisolm from a program (i.e., his extradition hearing) by failing to provide an interpreter, insofar as no extradition hearing was held; (2) the § 1983 claim for damages against this defendant was barred by the Eleventh Amendment, and Chisolm lacked standing to pursue a § 1983 claim for injunctive relief because he was in no danger of future harm; and (3) the Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the state-law claims against Mercer Vicinage. (Mem. Op. filed 6-11-97 at 10-15.) Subsequently, on March 10, 1998, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of McManimon on plaintiff's individual-capacity claims for damages under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, holding that McManimon was entitled to qualified immunity against such claims. (Order entered 3-10-98.)

Thus, in its present posture, this action encompasses: (1) an ADA claim against McManimon in his official capacity; (2) a Rehabilitation Act claim against McManimon in his official capacity; (3) a LAD claim against McManimon; and (4) a § 1983 claim against McManimon. (See Am. Compl., "Factual Allegations," ¶ 6; "First Count," ¶ 2.) The factual bases of plaintiff's claims are that MCDC "failed to provide specific auxiliary aids such as[:] 1) TDD, telecommunication device for the deaf[;] 2) [i]nterpreter [s]ervices[;] and 3) [c]losed [c]aptioning." (Pl.'s Br. in Supp. at 1.) Plaintiff has moved for summary judgment as to the question of liability on only the ADA, Rehabilitation Act, and LAD claims. (Notice of Mot. filed 11-19-99.) Defendant McManimon has ...

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