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June 30, 2020

Stroock’s Public Service Project recently brought a pair of civil rights cases on the same day – one on each coast.  Each case seeks to defend the rights of vulnerable persons.  

On the East Coast, our team seeks to prevent the U.S. Department of Education from undermining Title IX protections for sexual assault victims. On the West Coast, our team invokes the Americans with Disabilities Act to insist on non-discriminatory public transportation.

On May 14, a New York team co-counseling with the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit to bolster Title IX regulations protecting victims of campus sexual assault amid a new Education Department policy that would weaken the rules. 

That same day, hours later, the PSP joined the Disability Rights Law Center in Los Angeles on a nationwide class action against Flixbus and other companies over a lack of accommodations for passengers who use wheelchairs. 

 “I can’t recall another day in our history on which we filed two civil rights actions on two coasts,” said Kevin Curnin, who leads Stroock’s Public Service Project.  “We are small, but still mighty, thanks to the two great teams on these two cases.”

The Battle Over Title IX

The Title IX case immediately followed the issuance of a new rule by Secretary of Education Betsy Devos and the Education Department, and it was brought on behalf of plaintiffs Know Your IX, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Girls for Gender Equity, and Stop Sexual Assault in Schools, which are dedicated to helping students who experience sexual harassment and assault continue their education. Know Your IX was itself a pro bono client of the PSP when it first launched several years ago.

According to the plaintiffs, the rule creates more skepticism in reviewing reports of sexual harassment and assault. They also note that the Education Department itself believes that 32 percent fewer reports of sexual harassment and assault will be investigated by four-year institutions as a result of this rule change.   

Eighteen state attorneys general brought a similar lawsuit over the rule change soon after the PSP’s case was filed.

“We’re committed to defending the civil rights of students at U.S. colleges and universities,” said Josh Sohn, who is leading the Stroock team bringing the case, “and this rule change greatly undermines those rights.” 

The Stroock team on the case also includes Daniel Lewkowicz, Emily Kuznick, Sarah Roe, Christine Stygar and Seamus Curley. 

Fighting for Accessible Transit

On the West Coast, a Stroock team partnered with the Disability Rights Law Center to bring a federal nationwide class action against FlixBus and other companies, on behalf of passengers who use a wheelchair, scooter or other mobility aid. 

The lawsuit alleges that there is a nationwide problem of inaccessible buses, and seeks damages and an injunction to ensure that disabled passengers are able to use the service without hassle, humiliation, inconvenience, extra time or cost. 

Kevin noted that the case raises complex issues as a result of Los Angeles outsourcing public transit options to private companies.
“I’m pleased to be involved in this important civil rights matter,” said Stephen Newman, who leads the Stroock team on the case. 

The Stroock team also includes Dustin Linden and Gagan Sandhu.

Click here for more on the Stroock Public Service Project.