CUNA On-hand for Opening Arguments in Landmark ADA Case

CUNA staff attended opening arguments in Griffin v. DOL FCU Tuesday, an appellate-level case involving alleged noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

CUNA filed an amicus, or friend or the court, brief in the case, as part of its ongoing advocacy to defend credit unions hit with predatory litigation due to uncertainty with how the ADA applies to Web sites.

“It is troubling to see these meritless claims continue to impact credit unions across the nation. We are hopeful the court will agree with the arguments we raised in our amicus and issue a ruling in favor of DOL FCU that provides precedent helpful to others affected,” said CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle. “CUNA and the leagues will continue to advocate for solutions to the problem of plaintiff’s attorneys exploiting the ADA to attack community financial institutions.”

Griffin v. DOL FCU is especially significant because it is the first ADA case at the appellate level, and a decision will provide binding precedent for the Fourth Circuit. A judge in the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed the lawsuit in February, leading to the current appeal.

A panel of federal appeals court judges expressed skepticism over the plaintiff’s request to reinstate the high-profile ADA lawsuit brought against the credit union.

Members of the panel suggested that in the absence of pleading eligibility in a credit union’s field of membership, it seemed unlikely that a plaintiff could satisfy the concrete injury and harm requirements necessary to constitutionally confer jurisdiction upon the court and legal standing to sue.

Additional details can be found on CUNA’s Removing Barriers Blog.

CUNA’s primary arguments on behalf of DOL FCU are:

  • The district court correctly found that the appellant lacks standing, and had not suffered concrete and particularized harm because he does not meet the eligibility requirements to become a member of DOL FCU;
  • A Web site is not a place of public accommodation, and therefore the ADA does not apply; and
  • Applying Title III of the ADA to Web sites renders the statute impermissibly vague in the absence of any implementing regulations by the Department of Justice (DoJ).

 CUNA and the state leagues continue to advocate for DoJ to re-open the rule-making on ADA Web site compliance. The issue was front and center during the NJCUL’s Hike-the-Hill meetings during GAC and its in-district recess meetings with members of the New Jersey delegation. Reps Frank LoBiondo (R-2), Tom MacArthur (R-3), Leonard Lance (R-7) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-9) signed a U.S. House letter to Attorney General Jeff Session in June. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12) added her name to a similar letter sent last year.