ACLU raises issue with McDonnell letter on judicial appointments

The ACLU of Virginia has asked Gov. Bob McDonnell to revise or remove from his questionnaire for judicial applicants two questions regarding mental and physical disabilities that may violate the American with Disabilities Act.

“These questions are unnecessary, inappropriate, invasive, and very likely illegal,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “Persons with disabilities fought for many years to eliminate employment and other forms of discrimination against them. The governor’s questions are an affront to them and the law, and we hope he will move swiftly to remove them.”

ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca K. Glenberg made the request in a letter sent on July 7, but as of this writing has not received a response. A recent check of the governor’s website for judicial appointments indicates that the application is still in use.

Question 38(c) of the Judicial Selection Questionnaire asks, “Have you ever been treated for any emotional or mental illness or condition. If so, please give the particulars.” Question 38(d) asks, “Do you suffer from any impairment of eyesight or hearing or any other physical limitation?”

Addressing the question about mental disabilities, Glenberg wrote: “The question …is highly intrusive and far broader than necessary to identify individuals who may lack judicial judgment or temperament….The vast number of persons who suffer (or have suffered) from some kind of mental or emotional impairment would not…be prevented from acting competently as a judge.”

On the issue of physical impairments, Glenberg wrote: “Manifestly, hearing and vision impairments have nothing to do with the ability to function as a judge. They do not affect a person’s judgment, intelligence, or temperament. With the availability of Braille, sign language interpreters, and a multitude of assistive technologies, there is no reason why a person with hearing or vision problems should be unable to perform judicial duties.”

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