The U.S. Supreme Court will decide if a paraplegic prison inmate can sue Georgia for damages over its failure to accommodate his disability under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker argues that Congress lacked constitutional authority to allow inmates to sue states. Acting U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement and inmate Tony Goodman’s lawyers say Congress has the power to protect prisoners’ constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.
The Journal-Constitution says the case could have “huge financial consequences for states if they are forced to restructure prisons to accommodate people with disabilities.” Lower federal courts have ruled that Georgia enjoys constitutional protection against being sued for money. Goodman, who uses a wheelchair, was convicted of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and illegal drug possession with intent to distribute. Since last year, Goodman says he has been held in a cell measuring 12 feet by 3 feet for 23 hours per day.
He says prison officials have often failed to provide the assistance he needs to get to the toilet, shower, or bed. As a result, his cell floor is covered with his feces and urine, and he has often sat in his own waste while officials ignored his requests for assistance.