Legal Support

Legal Support

We provide assistance to people with disabilities whose rights are violated or who have been denied a service because of their disability.

Areas We Can Help

  • Abuse and Neglect
  • Accessibility
  • Assistive Technology
  • Communication
  • Community Integration
  • Education (Including college)
  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Medicaid and Healthcare
  • Service and Benefits Denial
  • Social Security
  • Transportation
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Voting

Things We Do Not Do

 

There are certain things we cannot help with but we work with people and organizations that do. Please contact us if you need a referral for any other issues below.

  • Applications or appeals for Social Security or disability benefits (such as SSI or SSDI)
  • Applications for Medicaid benefits (We do help with reductions or denials of services.)
  • Housing issues that are not related to a disability (such as eviction for failure to pay rent)
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Divorce, child support and other family law matters
  • Wills, trusts and estate planning
  • Malpractice and personal injury
  • Criminal, probation or parole (P&A may assist a child with a disability who is facing juvenile court charges by working with the child’s attorney to get services in the community instead of being sent to the Department of Juvenile Justice).
  • Petitions to obtain guardianship of a person with a disability

Systemic Advocacy Lawsuits

We use systemic advocacy lawsuits where policies, practices, or patterns of conduct result in unlawful discrimination, abuse, neglect, or other harm to groups of people with disabilities.  The goal of systemic advocacy litigation is to bring about positive, long-term change for the benefit of many people by enforcing their civil rights using the legal system.

In 2005, P&A and three individuals sued the SC Department of Corrections on behalf of all inmates with serious mental illness.  In 2014 then Circuit Court Judge Michael Baxley ruled that the SCDC mental health program is “inherently flawed and systemically deficient in all major areas,” and ordered prison officials to reform the system to provide more humane treatment of prison inmates with serious mental illness.  Order Granting Judgment in Favor of Plaintiffs SCDC appealed, but also agreed to mediation in an attempt to resolve issues.  In 2016 the parties agreed to a multi-year plan to improve mental health services at SCDC. Settlement Agreement May 31, 2016  The Circuit Court approved the settlement and the SC Supreme Court has issued a final order. The parties are working to implement the Settlement Agreement.  The Nelson Mullins law firm represents P&A and the class pro bono.

For additional information see:
www.mentalhealth4inmates.org

The Implementation Panel and the Mediator have issued reports as listed below:

(P&A regrets that the reports may not be accessible to individuals using screen reader programs.)

April-2020 Mediator Report
April 2020 IP Report
November 2019 Implementation Panel Report
November 2019 Mediator’s Report 
March 2019 IP report 
March 2019 Mediator’s Report
November-2018-Final-IP-Report
March 2017 IP report (final)
March 2017 Mediator Report of Compliance
March-2019-IP-report
March 2019 Mediator Report
November 2019 Mediator Report
July 2018 Implementation Panel Report
March 2018 Mediator Report
December 2017 IP Report
December 2017 Mediator’s Report
December 2017 IP Report
July 2017 Implementation Panel Report
July 2017 Mediator Report
March 2017 IP report 
March 2017 Mediator Report of Compliance

In 2007, P&A and a group of individuals sued the SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN) for not complying with state law that government agencies must issue regulations.   DDSN does not have regulations for many important matters, including eligibility for their services, hearings and appeals, and standards for day and residential programs.    After the Circuit Court ruled for DDSN in 2013 P&A appealed to the Court of Appeals.  On February 24, 2016, the Court of Appeals issued an opinion clearly supporting P&A’s right to bring the suit.  DDSN asked the SC Supreme Court to review the case; on February 10, 2017, the SC Supreme Court declined review.  Late in 2017 the parties agreed to attempt mediation to resolve the case.  On September 25, 2018, P&A and DDSN mediated the case and reached an agreement.  On October 1, 2018, the DDSN Commission voted to accept the proposed agreement.  In that agreement, DDSN agreed to publish a Notice of Drafting in the State Register, along with draft regulations in specific subjects.  DDSN agreed to draft regulations in the following areas (based upon the directives referenced below):

  • Eligibility (Directive 100-30-DD),
  • Appeals (Directive 535-11-DD),
  • Research (Directive 535-09-DD), and
  • Certification and Licensure of adult community homes (Directive 104-01-DD).

DDSN has 100 days to start this process and post the notice as required by the SC Administrative Procedures Act (APA).  Once the notice is posted, the regular requirements of the APA will apply.  When the notice is published in the State Register, P&A will formally dismiss its case against DDSN.  As part of the regulatory process, P&A and others will then be able to provide comments on each of the proposed regulations.  The Notice of Drafting should be published in the State Register in late February, 2019.

In May 2017, P&A and six individuals sued the SC Department of Mental Health (DMH) to increase access to community mental health services.    The complaint alleged that DMH was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide adequate community services.  This meant individuals unnecessarily remain isolated and hospitalized at the state’s G. Werber Bryan Psychiatric Hospital in Columbia.  In a 1999 case, the US Supreme Court declared that unjustified isolation was discrimination based on disability, Olmstead v. L.C. 527 U.S. 581, 597 (1999). In February 2019, an agreement was reached which called for, among other enhancements, expansion of DMH crisis services aimed at preventing involuntary hospitalization; annual increases in DMH community supported housing; and the creation of new DMH programs to streamline hospital discharge, improve hospitalized patients’ preparation for discharge, and reduce hospital lengths of stay by ensuring patients have access to appropriate community resources.

Link to the full agreement

Link to joint press release

On July 25, 2020, P&A brought a federal lawsuit about longstanding conditions at the Juvenile Detention Center operated by Charleston County.    The Nelson Mullins law firm of Columbia represents P&A.   The complaint says there are “dangerous, inhumane, and unconstitutional conditions, policies, and practices” at the facility.   The building is over 50 years old and keeps juveniles in small cells, up to 22 hours a day.  Juveniles also report misuse of isolation cells and a physical restraint chair.  The lawsuit also asserts that the juveniles have been deprived of their educational rights under federal and state law.  Law enforcement agencies in Charleston, Dorchester, Berkeley, and Colleton counties all place juveniles at the facility.  After the suit was filed, Charleston moved the juveniles currently in their care to a floor at the adult facility.  The suit is on-going.

Link to the full complaint

Not sure where to start? We have a few recommendations.

If you have questions, you’re always welcome to contact us directly. We also have a wealth of information on our site about being a strong self-advocate and knowing your rights.