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New Highs in Republican Governance

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Lord knows there’s plenty of terrible Republicanness to talk about today from the Yates hearing. Evidently there is no one too dumb for Louisiana to send to the Senate. But I always like to pay attention to the states. Such lovely laboratories of democracy. And nowhere more so than Texas.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has said he supports the Americans with Disabilities Act, has tenaciously battled to block the courthouse door to disabled Texans who sue the state.

In a series of legal cases in his three terms, Abbott’s office has fought a blind pharmacy professor in Amarillo who wanted reflective tape on the stairs to her office; two deaf defendants in Laredo who asked for a qualified sign language interpreter in their courtroom; and a woman with an amputated leg. In that case, the state argued she was not disabled because she had a prosthetic limb.

Abbott, who has used a wheelchair since a tree fell on him while he was jogging and crushed his spine almost 30 years ago, applauds the 1990 federal law. It has helped provide the ramps, wide doors and access that allow him to give speeches and meet with constituents.

While Abbott, the leading Republican contender for governor, benefits from the ADA mandates that guide businesses, builders and cities, he believes it is unconstitutional to force the state to comply. He has argued that his duty is to protect the state’s autonomy and its taxpayers by using all legal tools available to him — including the argument that the state is immune from disability lawsuits brought under the ADA.

“It’s the attorney general’s duty to zealously represent the interests of the state of Texas, and in these cases that meant raising all applicable legal arguments in litigation where Texas was sued in court,” said Abbott spokesman Jerry Strickland.

Abbott’s office has been aggressive on the issue. The state has frequently lost, even before conservative courts such as the Texas Supreme Court. And yet when there has been a trial, it has won several of the cases, with arguments that beat back the charges of discrimination.

Advocates for the disabled say Abbott’s office has worked to deny ADA protections by repeatedly and falsely claiming that impaired Texans don’t have the right to sue the state for discrimination. Abbott declined several requests from The Dallas Morning News to discuss the matter.

At least in the age of Bob Dole, a Republican would be humane on an issue that actually affects said Republican. But not anymore. Nope. Now an actual disabled Republican actively seeks to oppress other disabled people. That’s the Republican Party in a nutshell.

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  • veleda_k

    “I’ve got mine, fuck you,” distilled.

    • BobOso

      Yup. He settled his case for big bucks and then spent the rest of his legal career fighting for tort reform. In other crappy news, he also signed the Papers Please bill into law on Sunday.

      • liberalrob

        The linked story’s from 2014 but it bears repeating.

        Charlie Pierce regularly points out that Paul Ryan got through high school while subsisting on SSDI payments, then devoted his political career to eliminating Social Security.

        It’s what they do.

        • sigaba

          It’s guilt. They feel inadequate for having to rely on benefits, and the only way they can expiate their guilt is by eliminating the benefits.

          You might starve to death, bankrupt with cancer, but at least you won't feel the obliterating shame I feel for ever having taken the dole.

          Pulling up the ladder is the only way people like Ryan can prove to themselves that they’re worthy of their success. It has nothing to do with material needs, or fairness, or “fraud,” it’s all their personal paychodrama, about their shame at ever being poor and their almost frantic efforts to prove they’re now different and better.

          Starving the poor is the only way Ryan can silence the desperate, frightened little boy he once was. He’s make the world a Just World by Any Means Necessary.

  • Gwen

    We made this jackass governor, for some reason.

    • McAllen

      Everything’s bigger in Texas, especially assholes.

    • liberalrob

      Jackassmandering.

      There’s a whole jackass pipeline lined up behind him, too.

  • Denverite

    And it comes full circle — not sure if Loomis is aware, but Texas is getting these cases kicked on [one of] Lemieux’s [many] hobby horses, Eleventh Amendment immunity.

    Although all of that said, I’m sympathetic to the state’s top lawyer taking the position that the state (generally) can’t be sued in federal court for money damages, and moving to dismiss all such cases on Eleventh Amendment grounds. That’s kind of his job as the lawyer for the state. And note that an Eleventh Amendment dismissal doesn’t end the case — it just means that the plaintiff has to pursue his claims in state court (or he has to refile seeking only injunctive relief).

    • efgoldman

      Texas is getting these cases kicked on [one of] Lemieux’s [many] hobby horses, Eleventh Amendment immunity.

      I am not a lawyer, I’m only a football fan, but the text of the 11th amendment refers specifically to “citizens from another state” and citizens of foreign countries. Does Texas have a special exemption for its own citizens?
      Nevertheless, this asshole deserves to burn in hell, if there were a hell.

      • Denverite

        I’m only a football fan, but the text of the 11th amendment refers specifically to “citizens from another state” and citizens of foreign countries.

        Hence why it is a Lemieux hobby horse!

      • rea

        All the textualists think that the 11th amendment implies far, far more than it says. Penumbras, or something

    • Joseph Slater

      11th Amendment immunity applies in state courts too. See Alden v. Maine. Did you mean sue under state law? Anyway, 11th Am. iimmunity is not total: it does allow the federal agencies to sue for money damages and individuals can sue for injunctive relief. But practically, neither happens much.

      To be clear, I think these cases are terrible interpretations of the 11th Amendment. And had Garland or a Hillary appointee been seated, they likely would have been reversed. But her emails, not a dime’s worth of difference, etc.

      • Denverite

        11th Amendment immunity applies in state courts too. See Alden v. Maine.

        IIRC, Alden just says that Congress can’t use its AI powers to force a state to give up its sovereign immunity and subject itself to suit. I’ve always understood it to mean that to whatever extent the state allows lawsuits under state law, you can also bring a federal lawsuit subject to those limits as well.

        But anyway, yes, it probably would be easier to bring state law claims.

        • Michael Masinter

          Alden does indeed forbid Congress from using A1 powers to strip states of sovereign immunity from A1 claims in state court. But it also leaves in place state power to waive sovereign immunity for state law claims without thereby also waiving sovereign immunity for A1 claims. So Texas could waive sovereign immunity for state law tort claims while not waiving it for A1 ADA claims.

          The eleventh amendment does not bar all federal court claims against a state under the ADA. If the underlying state conduct is itself unconstitutional as well as unlawful under the ADA, then per U.S. v. Georgia the ADA as applied to that case is section five litigation that trumps the eleventh amendment. The problem is that the vast majority of state sponsored disability discrimination is constitutional under the equal protection rational basis review, so the U.S. v. Georgia rule only occasionally applies, as when the conduct also happens to violate the eighth amendment as in that case, or when it deprives a person with a disability of the first amendment right of access to court as in Tennessee v. Lane.

        • Joseph Slater

          States can waive their 11th Amendment immunity, but they usually don’t. Are you suggesting that if a state law authorizes suits by state employees under, say, a state wage and hour statute, the state has thereby waived its 11th Amendment immunity in suits involving the (federal) FLSA? If so, where does Alden say that? The plaintiffs in Alden were in state court.

          • Michael Masinter

            I’m suggesting exactly the contrary; a state that waives sovereign immunity for claims under its own minimum wage statute has not thereby waived immunity from suit under the FLSA, either under the eleventh amendment in federal court or per Alden in state court. For better or for (very much the) worse, Alden and Seminole Tribe make as current constitutional doctrine the last paragraph of Justice Iredell’s dissent in Chisholm v. Georgia with regard to the degree to which, by ratification of the constitution, the states surrendered sovereign immunity.

  • MattMinus

    The sad thing is that many Republicans will see it as a virtue that he has the resolve to be cruel in a situation where he should feel empathy.

  • Davis X. Machina

    Nope. Now an actual disabled Republican actively seeks to oppress other disabled people. That’s the Republican Party in a nutshell.

    Let us not forget Jesse Helms’ mini-me, John C. East, who had the Senate cloakroom and other areas of the Capitol remodeled for his wheelchair, price a million and a half dollars, who then turned around and supported Reagan administration attacks on Section 504 and the disability provisions of the CRRA

  • Warren Terra

    Abbott’s office has fought a blind pharmacy professor in Amarillo who wanted reflective tape on the stairs to her office

    It would be cheaper to fly a professional interior designer out to Texas to stop by a hardware store so they could buy and install some tape than it would be to contemplate fighting this request. That’s just being mean for the sake of it.

    two deaf defendants in Laredo who asked for a qualified sign language interpreter in their courtroom

    How does the ADA even enter into this? Any trial in which the defendant is incapable of understanding the proceedings is begging to be overthrown on appeal, isn’t it? Whether the need is for sign language or for translation into Klingon?

    • Davis X. Machina

      Any trial in which the defendant is incapable of understanding the proceedings is begging to be overthrown on appeal, isn’t it.

      It’s Texas. Home of the sleeping capital-defense attorney.

      • rea

        The funny thing is, most judges will tell you that making sure the defendant understands what is happening makes everything run a lot smoother

  • NeonTrotsky

    Further more this will be pointed to as proof that opposing the ADA doesn’t mean you hate disabled people in the same way black conservatives get paraded around.

  • stonetools

    So a disabled guy settles for millions, then spends the rest of his life trying to curtail the rights of other disabled people.Honestly, there are some people that it would be better if they were no longer on Earth. There -I said it. (Full disclosure: I am disabled, so I see all sides of this).

    • psychomath

      I don’t see how being disabled allows you to see both sides of this. The two sides are “Completely selfish asshole” and “person who cares about the quality of life of others in the community”.

  • Shantanu Saha

    Abbott, who has used a wheelchair since a tree fell on him while he was jogging and crushed his spine almost 30 years ago

    Am I the only one to think that God must have missed?

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Fancy big city science-doctors thwarted G-d’s will!

    • Judas Peckerwood

      There is no god. But I do blame the tree for leaving the job half-done.

  • afdiplomat

    And just to unpack the irony in the Bob Dole-related picture at the head of this post (which I assume Mr. Loomis intended): Dole got himself wheeled onto the floor of the Senate in December 2012 when the Senate was considering ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. He was there to urge Republicans to vote in favor of the Convention, which would not have required the USG to take any actions it had not already taken. He failed. In one of their typical fits of anti-internationalist pique, Republicans voted to reject it, and it fell six votes short.

    • efgoldman

      In one of their typical fits of anti-internationalist pique, Republicans voted to reject it

      Sure, show really great respect for a lifetime member, presidential candidate, and senate leader, who was himself injured and partially disabled putting his life on the line on behalf of the country they claim to love and represent.

      Fucking hypocrite shitweasels.
      And he was a guy with whom I agreed on nothing other than his advocacy for the disabled. HW Bush, too.

      ETA: Although I was also with HW on broccoli.

  • e.a.foster

    OMG that is funny. Only in Texas I am sure.

    The A.G. for Texas has no problem doing this because his disability isn’t a big problem for him. He’s rich, has everything he needs to get around and move on with his life.

    • Judas Peckerwood

      He’s not the AG anymore — he’s the fucking governor.

  • BeckySharp

    Meanwhile, in Texas, lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow doctors to lie to pregnant women carrying fetuses with disabilities if they “suspect” that the woman might have an abortion if she is told the truth. (This little legislative gem has already passed in my home state.)

    But once the little snowflake angel leaves the womb and becomes a little human, they don’t give a crap anymore. Then they only deserve life if they don’t cost the taxpayers any money.

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