A federal judge last week dismissed the civil suit against a number of Greene County offices and officials by a man claiming his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) had been violated after a 2018 arrest.
Charles Allen Wimer, 46, of Ruckersville, filed a federal civil suit against a number of Greene County offices and officials in March alleging they violated ADA by not providing him with a qualified reader/writer for his court proceedings.
Wimer faces charges in Greene County for allegedly driving without insurance, assaulting a police officer, eluding police and resisting arrest. He pleaded not guilty to all counts in July.
Under ADA, a plaintiff “must allege that (1) he has a disability, (2) he is otherwise qualified to receive the benefits of a public service, program or activity, and (3) he was excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of such service, program or activity, or otherwise discriminated against, on the basis of her disability.”
Wimer alleged that court staff advised him to get legal aid assistance in filling out paperwork when the court should have provided the accommodation. Wimer also alleged that the sheriff’s department and court “failed to provide documents in an accessible format” or provide a reader/writer to assist.
Documents show that an employee of Central Virginia Regional Jail was notified on July 15, 2018 that Wimer claimed he was disabled and could not read and write, and specifically mentioned the Americans with Disabilities Act. Wimer filed an ADA request for accommodation on July 16, two days before a scheduled arraignment. He requested a “reader/writer prior to court to assist in filing legal documents and during court for any reading or writing defendant is required to do. Use of assistive technology devices such as a tablet to take notes during hearing.”
Circuit Court Judge Dale Durrer denied the request, saying the court-appointed attorney is qualified for to offer that assistance.
The Honorable Glen E. Conrad, a senior United States District Judge, said in his opinion filed Oct. 29 that the federal court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to overrule Judge Durrer’s ruling.
“Wimer effectively requests appointed counsel in civil litigation or on-demand legal services provided by the defendants—someone to help him fill out paperwork, ‘write legal documents’ and ‘draft paperwork AKA pleadings’ for him,” Judge Conrad wrote in his opinion. “The court concludes that granting Wimer his requested accommodation would ‘fundamentally alter’ the justice system and ‘impose an undue burden’ on the relevant government entities. Federal courts and court staff may not give litigants legal advice. The court holds ADA does not require state court staff to do so either.”
The court did exercise jurisdiction over Wimer’s remaining issues, but also dismissed those with prejudice for failure to state a claim.
Wimer has stated that he was diagnosed with a learning disability in the early 80s while in the Fairfax County school system. Wimer has also said he was diagnosed with emotional disorders, in addition to learning disabilities.
The case was moved from Greene County Circuit Court up to the United States District court for the Western District of Virginia on April 9.
The defendants filed a motion to dismiss in mid-April.
Wimer’s criminal trial is scheduled for Jan. 13, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. in Greene County Circuit Court.