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A deputy district attorney’s attempt to force court officials of Santa Clara, Calif., to accommodate her hearing disability was waved away by a superior court appellate panel last week. Citing procedural issues, the panel declined to overrule a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge’s decision and suggested prosecutors should instead seek to enforce a 1996 federal consent decree addressing the court’s responsibility to accommodate hearing disabilities. “It is clear that either [the DA's office] or the employee has a ‘plain, speedy and adequate remedy’ in law. Either [the DA] or the employee can seek to enforce the agreement entered into between the United States and the respondent that deals with this exact issue.” The ruling came after Deputy District Attorney Lisa Rogers, who lost her hearing during law school, requested real-time captioning in 10 misdemeanor trials. “I think the ruling was correct that there were procedural defects in the case and that the court recognized those defects,” said California Deputy Attorney General Louis Mauro, who is representing the court system. The case was assigned to the San Mateo, Calif., bench after the initial decision was appealed to Santa Clara Presiding Judge Richard Turrone. Assistant District Attorney Marc Buller said Wednesday the ruling didn’t come as a surprise but that his office wanted to try all possible avenues of recourse. “We went in this fashion because that’s what the code provides for,” Buller said. Buller said his office has contacted the Department of Justice about the matter. According to the 1996 settlement decree, “the court will provide an opportunity for hard of hearing individuals to request the auxiliary aid or service of their choice, and will give primary consideration to the choice expressed.” Rogers switched from the family support division to misdemeanor trials last spring, and said she quickly realized she needed a real-time reporter to provide real-time transcription services. “It was first watching voir dire that I realized I needed captioning,” Rogers said. “It’s a quicker pace than in family support. I can’t stop the trial and say, ‘Can you repeat that?’ I also have a lot more to do — watching the witnesses’ demeanor, taking notes, watching the jury’s reaction, comparing the police report to testimony and previous testimony and developing questions.” The district attorney’s office has been paying for Roger’s real-time reporter, but petitioned the court to provide the service under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Judge Linda Condron refused, and later Court Administrator Kire Torre maintained that the district attorney’s office, not the court, should bear the costs of accommodating its employee. San Mateo Superior Court Judges Carl Holm, George Miram and Quentin Kopp signed the appellate panel’s ruling.

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