King v. Marion County Circuit Court, No. 16-3726 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
An Indiana county may subsidize private dispute resolution in domestic-relations cases. Under Marion County's Plan, a party to a domestic-relations suit may request subsidized mediation, or the court may order it of its own accord. King asked the Marion Circuit Court to refer his case to mediation and authorize a subsidy. The court ordered both. King, who is deaf, also requested an American Sign Language interpreter. The judge denied that request. In court King would have had an interpreter at no cost to him. King proceeded through mediation, employing his stepfather as his interpreter. King then sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, arguing that, by refusing to provide him with a free interpreter in mediation, the court “by reason of [his] disability … denied [him] the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity,” 42 U.S.C. 12132. The district court awarded him $10,380. The Seventh Circuit reversed without addressing the merits. The Marion Circuit Court is a division of the state. Indiana has asserted sovereign immunity. Congress cannot authorize federal litigation against the states to enforce statutory rights under grants of power other than the Fourteenth Amendment, such as the Commerce Clause; to the extent that statutory rules are unnecessary to prevent constitutional violations, they do not overcome sovereign immunity.