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Rhodes v. Superior Court of District

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 18, 2019




         Plaintiff Edward Rhodes, a former employee of the District of Columbia Courts (“D.C. Courts”), brought this action under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). See 42 U.S.C. § 12101. The District of Columbia (“defendant”) has filed a motion for summary judgment.[1] For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants defendant's motion.


         From March 2002 through September 2016, Rhodes was an employee of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. See generally Def. Dist. of Colum.'s Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of its Mot. for Summ. J. (“Def.'s Mem.”) [ECF No. 36], Ex. 1 (“Notifications of Personnel Actions”) [ECF No. 36-3].[2] Michael Francis (“Francis”), the Community Court Coordinator for the Criminal Division of the Superior Court, became Rhodes's direct supervisor on January 4, 2006. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 2 (“Francis Decl.”) [ECF No. 36-4] ¶¶ 1-2; see id., Ex. 5 (“Rhodes Dep.”) [ECF No. 36-7] at 35:15-18.

         “In January 2012, the Community Court Office assumed responsibility for assigning community service to criminal defendants involved in diversion programs.” Francis Decl. ¶ 3. Francis assigned Rhodes the task of “enter[ing] data pertaining to community service placements in CourtView, the Superior Court's docket management database.” Id.; see Rhodes Dep. at 20:10- 15, 41:4-14; Def.'s Mem., Ex. 8 [ECF No. 36-10] at 3 (“I assigned defendants to [community service] sites by typing in the names of the persons performing services, the community service sites, and . . . duties at that site. I verified their work performance and recorded their hours manually and updated the system.”).

         A. Accommodations

         Rhodes is nearsighted, Rhodes Dep. at 8:22-9:15, and “it was common knowledge all over the department and the court that [he has] vision problems, ” id. at 45:12-14. The parties do not dispute that Rhodes's supervisors were aware of, and the D.C. Courts provided accommodations for, his nearsightedness. For example, Rhodes states that a former supervisor provided him a magnifying glass and a larger (19-inch) computer monitor in or about 2004, see id. at 31:15-32:15, 42:7-44:11, and defendant “provided Mr. Rhodes with accommodations for several separate trainings since 2006” by “reserving the best seat for him to be able to see the presenter and the screen, while also arranging for a laptop computer so that he would have his own personal screen to see the presentation, ” Def.'s Mem., Ex. 3 (“Grandy Decl.”) [ECF No. 36-5] ¶ 11.

         When Rhodes was required to do more work on CourtView “in 2011, 2012 when the community court expanded, ” Rhodes Dep. at 20:10-11, he had trouble reading the computer screen, see id. at 17:2-3, 20:14-19, 41:11-14. Rhodes did not initiate a request for an accommodation for his nearsightedness; his supervisors referred him to H. Clifton Grandy (“Grandy”), the ADA Coordinator for the District of Columbia Courts. Grandy Decl. ¶¶ 1-2; Rhodes Dep. at 44:22-46:11, 47:16-18. The first of Grandy's many meetings with Rhodes occurred on January 20, 2012. Grandy Decl. ¶ 5. At that meeting, Rhodes “disclosed that his disability is extreme nearsightedness and that he is ‘legally blind[.]'” Grandy Decl., Ex. 1 (Summary Regarding Reasonable Accommodations Provided Edward Lennon Rhodes) at 2 (page numbers designated by defendant). Grandy “considered Mr. Rhodes as a person with disabilities who is covered by the [ADA.]” Id., Ex. 1 at 2. Although Grandy “did not request medical documentation, ” Rhodes nonetheless supplied “a medical report from Dr. Ronald L. Anderson dated March 5, 2013[.]” Id. ¶ 13; see id., Ex. 1 at 3. This medical report, a copy of an eyeglass prescription, see Def.'s Mem., Ex. 10, “did not discuss reasonable accommodations” for Rhodes's nearsightedness, Grandy Decl. ¶ 13.

         Grandy met with Rhodes “[o]n several occasions . . . to discuss whether his accommodations continued to be effective and to notify him about additional resources and events available to nearsighted persons.” Grandy Decl. ¶ 12. He kept records of his “interactions and communications with . . . Rhodes and others about his requests for accommodations and [defendant's] responses to his requests, . . . [and] prepared a chronological summary of some of the accommodations . . . provided to [him] for his nearsightedness.” Id. ¶ 3. This summary also documented Grandy's efforts to inquire “whether the accommodations [Rhodes] received were adequate, and whether he needed additional accommodations.” Id. ¶ 4. Rhodes had an opportunity to review Grandy's summary, and testified at his deposition that he “didn't see anything that Mr. Grandy wrote that wasn't true[.]” Rhodes Dep. at 114:10-11.

         Between February 2012 and September 2013, the D.C. Courts provided Rhodes the following adaptive technologies:

▪ Microsoft Comfort Optical Mouse 3000 to magnify the image displayed on the computer monitor
▪ Keys U See, an oversized keyboard with high contrast yellow keys and large black print letters
▪ A 27-inch computer monitor
▪ Ruby handheld digital video magnifier
▪ All Spectrum desk lamp

         Def. Dist. of Colum.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in Supp. of its Mot. for Summ. J. (“SMF”) [ECF No. 36-1] ¶¶ 7-10; Grandy Decl. ¶¶ 6-9; see id., Ex. 1 at 2-4; Rhodes Dep. at 52:11-53:9, 59:10-12, 57:15-58:22.[3] “The D.C. Courts also provided [him], at [Grandy's] request, technical assistance with adjusting the monitor display settings so that he would have enlarged fonts and icons on his computer monitor.” Grandy Decl. ¶ 10; see also SMF ¶ 11; Rhodes Dep. at 59:4-60:2. In addition, the D.C. Courts provided “technical assistance by monitoring him as he worked to ensure that errors in his work were not being introduced in [the CourtView] software.” Grandy Decl. ¶ 10.

         Grandy suggested that Rhodes speak with Louis Jenkins (“Jenkins”), another court employee “who had low vision” and “had received a reasonable accommodation with which he was pleased.” Id., Ex. 1 at 2; see also Rhodes Dep. at 48:4-7; Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (“Pl's Opp'n”) [ECF No. 40] at 2 (page numbers designated by ECF). Jenkins agreed “to demonstrate his accommodations to other employees, ” Grandy Decl., Ex. 1 at 2, and he met with Rhodes at Grandy's request, see Rhodes Dep. at 48:7-10, 50:15-22. Jenkins showed Rhodes “the things that he had . . . requested, and . . . received, ” id. at 48:8-10. Among Jenkins's accommodations was a 36-inch computer monitor, and according to Rhodes, Jenkins suggested that he too request one. Id. at 48:10-18, 50:14-51:10. Rhodes claimed that, if he had a 36-inch monitor, he could have enlarged fonts while still keeping the entire program window visible on his monitor. Id. at 55:2-6.

         The date on which Rhodes requested a 36-inch monitor is unclear. SMF ¶ 40. He could have made his request in February 2009, see Def.'s Mem., Ex. 8 at 1-2, or “around 2011, ” Rhodes Dep. at 51:22-53:6, long before he met with Grandy or Jenkins.

         Rhodes considered the 27-inch screen an improvement over the 19-inch screen he had before, id. at 54:8-12, 55:7-11, “but it didn't totally solve the problem, ” id. at 54:10-11. “[W]hen the fonts are enlarged enough for him to see them, the text would not fit on the screen properly.” Pl.'s Opp'n at 3. When the D.C. Courts upgraded all employees' computers with 27-inch screens in 2015, Rhodes Dep. at 62:15-20, Rhodes asked that his 27-inch monitor be reconfigured as his previous monitor had been, in such a way “that it would magnify things a lot more, ” id. at 59:17- 18, but no one “came out and reconfigurated [his] computer, ” id. at 63:13-14.

         In August 2015, “[m]anagement met with HR, the ADA coordinator, and Assistant General Counsel . . . and confirmed that [in their view] Mr. Rhodes had received all the necessary accommodations.” Def.'s Mem., Ex. 4 (“Cipullo Decl.”) [ECF No. 36-6] Ex. 1 (Mem. from Dan Cipullo to James McGinley dated August 24, 2016) at 2.

         B. Performance Evaluations

         Rhodes's performance evaluations were based on four elements: (1) Case Management; (2) Data Entry and Document Creation; (3) Special Projects and Assignments; and (4) Community Engagement and Reports on Community. SMF ¶ 5. Ratings on the first two elements “accounted for 70-80% of his overall performance ratings between 2011 and 2016.” Id.

         1. July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012

         For the period ending June 2012, Francis rated Rhodes's performance “Commendable” with an overall performance score of 3.0 out of a possible 5.0.[4] Francis Decl. ¶ 4; see id., Ex. 1 (2011-2012 Performance Evaluation) at 1, 7. Francis noted that Rhodes “sometimes misse[d] deadlines and sometimes his work [was] not complete or in error.” Id., Ex. 1 at 6. In one case, Rhodes submitted “a totally unprofessional and ‘sloppy' Community Service Program-Host Site Contact Form, ” and Francis commented that Rhodes did “not review his work adequately.” Id., Ex. 1 at 6.

         2. January 2013 ...

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