The Justice Department filed suit against the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania (UJS) for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The department previously notified the UJS that its courts had engaged in discrimination by prohibiting or limiting the use of lawfully prescribed medication to treat Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) by individuals under court supervision. That letter of findings demanded that the UJS address the civil rights violations identified by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern, Middle and Western Districts of Pennsylvania.
The Justice Department identified three individuals with OUD who were discriminated against by UJS Courts — specifically, the Northumberland and Jefferson County Courts of Common Pleas. Two individuals alleged that the Jefferson County Court ordered all probationers to stop using their prescribed medication for OUD. A third individual alleged that the Northumberland County Court required her to stop using her prescribed OUD medication to graduate from drug court. The department’s investigation corroborated these allegations and additionally found evidence that other UJS Courts have policies that discriminate against individuals with OUD.
“This lawsuit aims to safeguard the rights of people with Opioid Use Disorder who are too often subject to discrimination rooted in stereotypes and myths rather than in science,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Court-involved individuals with Opioid Use Disorder deserve access to medications needed to support their recovery and to break the cycles of addiction. We hope that this lawsuit against the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania sends a strong message about the need for courts to protect the rights of individuals with Opioid Use Disorder.”