A federal judge ruled yesterday that a Massachusetts native who now lives in Florida can try to bust up an agreement between Boston and local advocates for the disabled on repairing and installing thousands of new intersection ramps, but he's going to have to put up enough money to reimburse the advocates' lawyers for their time to defend against what the judge called a "frivolous" appeal.
Last year, the city agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by three Jamaica Plain residents and a frequent visitor to Boston over the awful state of intersection accessibility by committing to a ten-year plan to install and repair a total of 15,000 accessibility ramps. As with similar long-term lawsuit settlements - think the Boston Harbor cleanup - a judge will oversee the work to ensure the city lives up to its word.
But William Norkunas, himself an advocate for the disabled, who says he makes frequent trips to his Boston, objected to the settlement. Judge Richard Stearns ruled he had no legal reasons to object - in part because he lives in Flordia. Norkunas appealed.
Lawyers for the four plaintiffs asked Stearns to order Norkunas to put up at least $88,000 in a bond to pay them their costs in defending against his appeal.
In his order, Stearns agreed with the general idea, but cut the bond amount in half.
"Here, any argument Norkunas seeks to advance on appeal will be frivolous," Stearns wrote, referring in part to his allegation the plaintiffs didn't do a sufficient job of providing notice of the settlement to "the necessary state and federal authorities." But also:
Norkunas’s standing arguments – namely, that plaintiffs did not properly allege injury and that plaintiffs do not have standing under [federal disability laws] to seek injunctive relief because they did not encounter every sidewalk corner in the city – are equally without merit.