Disability Law

The Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, Inc. and the Disability Rights Bar Association come together once again to present a Bar Journal theme issue on disability law. These groups last wrote a disability law theme issue in May, 1996. What you will find on the following pages is in part a continuation of that issue. The articles will bring you up to date on the Americans with Disabilities Act as it has evolved and will address issues including guardianship, civil commitment hearings, and the new federal Ticket to Work Program.

The Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, Inc. (MPAS) is a private nonprofit corporation that provides legal services to people with disabilities. The MPAS will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2001. The agency receives public funding from federal and state governments and private funding from foundations including the State Bar Foundation, corporations, and individuals. All persons with disabilities are eligible for the MPAS’s services. A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity, such as breathing, walking, seeing, or learning. Many of the people that the MPAS serves are indigent and the MPAS greatly appreciates the opportunity to receive pro bono contributions as an eligible program approved by the State Bar of Michigan. To contribute please contact MPAS at (517) 487-1755 or see the eligible pro bono programs listing in the Michigan Bar Journal.

The Disability Rights Bar Association is a group of attorneys who specialize in advocating for people with disabilities. The group primarily supports its members by gathering to discuss current legal issues in the field of disability law. Subjects of particular interest to the group are special education, the ADA, guardianships, and HIV/AIDS law. If you are interested in becoming a member of this group, please contact William Fleener.

By contributing these articles, it is our hope that more members of the State Bar will become actively involved in disability law and the representation of people with disabilities. There are more than 1.9 million people with disabilities in Michigan, many of whom need legal representation. Some already may be among your clients.

In opening the 1973 conference on Mental Retardation and the Law, President Nixon said, "By giving millions of Americans with mental retardation ready access to the legal system, we guarantee their inalienable rights of citizens and strengthen the fiber of our society." These words still ring true today, not only for people with mental retardation, but for all citizens who have a disability. By becoming familiar with disability law through the articles in this issue, members of the State Bar of Michigan will be better able to serve their current clients and increasingly able to serve the larger group of unserved and under-served citizens with disabilities.

Elizabeth W. Bauer, Executive Director,Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service, Inc.

William J. Fleener, Jr., President,Disability Rights Bar Association

Elizabeth W. Bauer is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College (BA) and Ohio State University (MA). Executive director of Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service, Inc. since its founding in 1981, she consults with leaders of other states and nations on creation of independent rights protection systems and rule of law. She is a member of the Disability Subcommittee of the Open Justice Commission of the State Bar of Michigan.

William J. Fleener, Jr. is an attorney with the Lansing firm of McClelland & Anderson L.L.P. He is also the president of the Disability Rights Bar Association and a member of the Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service, Board of Directors. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University and a magna cum laude graduate of Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

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