effective communication

Settlement Agreement | Department of Justice Press Releases



This Settlement Agreement is entered into by the Office of the Sheriff, County of Fairfax, Virginia (Sheriff's Office), and the United States of America, by the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section (Department).

A complaint was filed under title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134, with the Department against the Sheriff's Office, which controls and operates the Fairfax County jail. The complainant, Mr. Michael Juhasz, is deaf. Mr. Juhasz stated that, after his arrest on October 14, 1995, for a drunk in Public charge, he was taken to the County jail. Mr. Juhasz indicated that there was a public telephone in the cell, but no Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD). Mr. Juhasz also stated that while in jail, he was not provided with an interpreter, he was unable to make a telephone call, and none of the jail officials wrote notes to him.

The Department of Justice is authorized under 28 C.F.R. Part 35, Subpart F, to investigate fully the allegations of the complaint in this matter, to determine compliance with title II of the ADA and the Department of Justice's implementing regulation, to issue findings, and, where appropriate, to negotiate and to secure voluntary compliance agreements. Furthermore, the Attorney General is authorized, under 42 U.S.C. § 12133, to bring a civil action enforcing title II of the ADA should the Department of Justice fail to secure voluntary compliance pursuant to Subpart F.

The Sheriff's Office denies that it acted unlawfully in its communications with Mr. Juhasz. The Sheriff's Office and the Department, desiring to resolve this matter without resort to litigation, agree as follows:

1. The ADA applies to the Sheriff's Office because it is a public entity as defined in 42 U.S.C. ß 12131.

2. The complainant, Mr. Michael Juhasz, is an individual with a disability as defined in 42 U.S.C. ß 12102, and 28 C.F.R. ß 35.104.

3. The Sheriff's Office stated that they have a TDD for inmates at the Intake Office. The Sheriff's Office provided the Department with copies of the instructional brochures on how to use a TDD. The Sheriff's Office also supplied the Department with a copy of a document dated December 2, 1991, that requires employees to log all TDD calls. The Department was informed that, from May 1992 to September 1997, the Office logged 204 TDD calls. It appears that a TDD was available in the County jail for use by Mr. Juhasz. Mr. Juhasz was apparently not aware that the TDD was available for his use.

4. The Department's title II implementing regulation require a public entity to furnish auxiliary aids, such as sign language interpreters, or written materials when necessary to provide effective communication and to give primary consideration to the requests of the individual with a disability when choosing an auxiliary aid. See 28 C.F.R ß 35.160. Mr. Juhasz was not provided with an interpreter. The completion of the booking form represented the only written material that was exchanged between Mr. Juhasz and the Sheriff's Office deputies. The booking deputy noted on the form that Mr. Juhasz was deaf. The Sheriff's Office has a policy on providing interpreters to deaf inmates. However, the booking officer did not follow the procedures established by the Sheriff's Office to effectively communicate with Mr. Juhasz.

5. Within 20 days of the effective date of this Agreement, the Sheriff's Office agrees to post a sign at the booking desk stating that a TDD is available.

6. The Sheriff's Office agrees to add the following question to the booking form within 30 days of the effective date of this Agreement: Does the inmate require foreign language or sign language interpretation, or other aids to effectively communicate? The Sheriff's Office has also agreed to re-train its deputies on how to effectively communicate with deaf inmates within 90 days of the effective date of this Agreement.

7. If the Department of Justice determines that this Settlement Agreement or any requirement thereof has been violated, it may institute a civil action seeking specific performance of this Settlement Agreement and other appropriate relief in any appropriate Federal court.

8. Failure by the Department of Justice to enforce the entire Settlement Agreement, or any provision thereof, shall not be construed as a waiver of the Department of Justice's right to enforce other deadlines and provisions of this Settlement Agreement.

9. This Settlement Agreement is a public document. A copy of this Settlement Agreement or any information contained in it may be made available to any person by the Office or the Department of Justice on request.

10. The effective date of this Settlement Agreement is the date of the last signature below.

11. This Settlement Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties on the matters raised herein, and no other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by either party or agents of either party, that is not contained in this written agreement, shall be enforceable. This Settlement Agreement does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the ADA or any other Federal law. This Settlement Agreement does not effect the Sheriff Office's continuing responsibility to comply with all aspects of the ADA.


For the United States:



Bill Lann Lee
Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights



John L. Wodatch, Chief
L. Irene Bowen, Deputy Chief
Eve Hill, Attorney

Brenda Sheppard, Investigator
Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66738
Washington, D.C. 20035-6738




For the Sheriff's Office: