February 5, 2014

Ninth Circuit asks Supreme Court to answer disability-rights access-to-internet question [UPDATED]

The Ninth Circuit today asked the California Supreme Court for help interpreting the state’s Disabled Persons Act (DPA).  In Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness, Inc. v. Cable News Network, Inc., a three-judge panel of the federal appellate court noted the DPA “provides that ‘[i]ndividuals with disabilities shall be entitled to full and equal access, as other members of the general public, to accommodations, advantages, facilities . . . and privileges of . . . places of public accommodation . . . and other places to which the general public is invited'” and it asked, “Does the DPA’s reference to ‘places of public accommodation’ include web sites, which are non-physical places?”

The question arises in an appeal from the denial of a motion under California’s anti-SLAPP statute.  Plaintiffs sued to compel CNN to caption videos posted on its web site.  The district court ruled that the anti-SLAPP statute didn’t apply to the case.  In an opinion separate from its order requesting the Supreme Court’s help, the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding the statute does apply.  It also concluded that plaintiffs could not win on their cause of action under the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.  But the court said it was deferring a decision concerning “whether the DPA applies to websites” until the Supreme Court gives guidance on the issue.

The Supreme Court should decide by the beginning of April — give or take — whether it will answer the question.  The court has to first decide whether it will answer one other Ninth Circuit request.

[February 6 UPDATE:  The Supreme Court today docketed the case.]

One Response to “Ninth Circuit asks Supreme Court to answer disability-rights access-to-internet question [UPDATED]”

  1. […] Blockbuster “web accessibility” issue, with potential for massive disruption of online life, continues to drag on without action in Washington despite urgings from academics; but at Ninth Circuit’s behest, California Supreme Court will decide whether state’s Disabled Persons Act covers websites [David Ettinger, Horwitz & Levy] […]

Leave a Reply