The Department of Justice (DOJ) Thursday filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the Unified Judicial System (UJS) of Pennsylvania, alleging that the UJS has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The DOJ sent a letter to the UJS earlier in the month, notifying the UJS that some of their courts had engaged in discrimination against a number of individuals who use prescribed medicines to combat Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). The letter indicated that the department had found that the Northumberland and Jefferson County courts had ordered three individuals to cease using their OUD medication. Such medications help diminish the effects of opioid addiction, including diminishing withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
The complaint states that the affected individuals are protected by the ADA because of their OUD. The individuals who were ordered by the courts to stop their OUD treatments all reported significant emotional and physical distress, including a return of withdrawal symptoms. The complaint also alleges that other UJS courts have or had policies that limit or prohibit OUD treatment for individuals in treatment court programs.
The complaint asks that the district court enjoin Pennsylvania courts from discriminatory practices against individuals with disabilities, including individuals with OUD. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement that the DOJ hopes the lawsuit will send “a strong message about the need for courts to protect the rights of individuals with Opioid Use Disorder.”