Georgetown Law grads are becoming a group that can influence policy and inspire young Americans, but some are also raising serious questions about the future of their profession.
In the spring of 2019, Georgetown Law graduate and activist Abigail Fenton filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government, alleging that the Federal Bureau of Investigation violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it failed to protect her with a wheelchair in an undercover investigation into a suspected drug ring.
The lawsuit alleges that the FBI’s failure to comply with Fenton’s ADA rights violated her rights under the Americans With Disabilities Code of Conduct.
“Fenton’s disability, as evidenced by her inability to walk normally and the fact that she cannot operate a wheelchair, would render her unable to work, study or otherwise participate in her profession, including in federal law enforcement and the courts,” the lawsuit states.
“She would also have a diminished capacity to function as a full and equal member of the community and in her community, and would therefore have a reduced ability to participate in and contribute to the community as a whole.”
The complaint claims that Fenton had no access to a wheelchair and could not have had the same opportunity as the rest of the class to prove that the ADA did not apply to her.
The lawsuit also alleges that Fentons disability did not prevent her from being an advocate for people with disabilities.
“The ADA does not apply in federal criminal law enforcement, but the Department of Justice has recognized that the law is relevant in civil rights cases, especially in cases involving disability,” a DOJ spokesperson told The Washington Times.
The ADA was passed in 1975 to help Americans with disabilities get into the workforce and it has been applied to a variety of areas, including hiring, employment and disability benefits, as well as in the workplace, including discrimination and retaliation.
Fenton claims that the lack of a wheelchair was the result of the DOJ’s failure “to protect Fenton from the ADA.”
According to the lawsuit, Fenton was in the process of securing a job in the U.S. Army when the FBI and federal prosecutors, along with other government agencies, began a sting operation to obtain information about a possible drug ring run by a high school student.
Fenton was hired as a confidential informant and was later questioned by federal prosecutors about her knowledge of the drug ring, which was allegedly involved in the murder of two people, including a 12-year-old boy, at a home in Fairfax, Virginia.
According to her lawsuit, she was then questioned by FBI agents, who told her that the investigation would continue.
She was later asked by an FBI agent whether she had ever participated in a criminal investigation, to which she replied that she had only worked at a university for two weeks and that she was not interested in working with federal prosecutors in a federal case.
“It is apparent that FENTON is a qualified ADA applicant for employment in the Federal Government, and the Department should have known that the federal Government is an Equal Opportunity employer,” the complaint states.
But Fenton claims the DOJ has not shown that she would have been qualified to hold a position in the agency.
“I believe that the Department was aware of the ADA’s protections in the civil rights context, but failed to act,” she said.
Fentons lawyer, Robert P. Hagerty, who represented her, said that he is confident that she will be successful in her lawsuit.
“Ms. Fenton is a high-quality, talented, committed and committed individual who has always been a valued member of Georgetown Law,” he said.
“We look forward to a speedy resolution.”
But others are questioning whether Fenton and other students who have filed ADA discrimination lawsuits will have a chance to win.
As we previously reported, Fenton’s lawsuit is the latest in a string of ADA discrimination claims against the Department, with others including: A woman who claims she was fired because she was wearing a prosthetic hand because she could not work; a woman who said she was demoted for wearing a wheelchair; and a man who claimed he was denied a promotion because he was not wearing a scooter because he could not walk.
Other students have filed lawsuits against the department as well, including an ADA lawsuit that claimed that the agency did not properly investigate a disability claim that a former aide to Vice President Mike Pence was denied because of her disability.