NEW ORLEANS — A deaf man from Shreveport is seeking damages from the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections and its secretary.
Stacy Kelle Hughes, who is deaf, filed suit on May 19 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana against the state of Louisiana, accusing the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections and James LeBlanc, the department's secretary, of not giving him an interpreter or any other type of help with hearing during discussions about his probation responsibilities.
Andrew Bizer, Hughes' attorney, described the problems Hughes had in communicating with those parties he has sued about his probation.
"Mr. Hughes communicates in ASL [American Sign Language]," Bizer told the Louisiana Record. "He does not know English and is illiterate. ASL is not a word-for-word translation of English. It is its own language with unique syntax and sentence structure. There is no written form of ASL. Therefore, he cannot read handbooks or even lip-read. Unless there is a sign language interpreter present, he is completely unable to communicate. Because of this, he had no idea what was expected of him."
Hughes has accused the parties of breaking Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
"He is seeking money damages," Bizer said. "The exact amount is part of our litigation strategy and is confidential."
Bizer said granting Hughes a favorable decision in the case is the correct moral decision.
"Having the court order the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections to provide sign language interpreters for all deaf probation/parolees is a 'win' for all the residents of Louisiana," Bizer said. "Don’t we, as a society, want our probation/parolees to know the terms of their probation/parole? I don’t want my tax dollars spent on the unnecessary incarceration of a deaf person who got sent back to jail because he violated the terms of his probation only because he didn’t know what he was supposed to do or not do."