Disability Law

Tax charges don't deter ADA lawyer, who filed a thousand access complaints after indictment

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Sacramento, California, lawyer Scott Johnson has filed more than a thousand disability access complaints in the San Francisco Bay Area since his May 2019 indictment on tax charges.

Johnson had stopped filing cases based on the Americans with Disabilities Act in Sacramento after his indictment, to the delight of merchants in the area, the Sacramento Bee reports. He had filed more than 2,900 lawsuits in the area since 2003.

Now, he has turned his attention to the Bay Area, apparently visiting businesses in his motorized wheelchair even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I looked up Scott Johnson and one day in Silicon Valley he had 19 suits, and another day he had 14 and another day he had 13,” said Kathryn Hughes, 86, in an interview with the Sacramento Bee.

Hughes is facing a suit by Johnson claiming that a building that she owns with her husband did not provide disability access to a hair salon there.

Hughes says the law firm that filed the suit for Johnson sought a $19,000 settlement. She says she has spent $100,000 making improvements to her parking lot and door openings.

The suit says Johnson visited the hair salon in November, but the business was closed at the time because of the pandemic, Hughes says.

The criminal case against Johnson accuses him of underreporting taxable income that he received from lawsuits and awards, CBS Sacramento had reported in May 2019. As a result, federal prosecutors said, Johnson paid little to no income tax for three years.

Johnson’s lawyer in the criminal case, Malcolm Segal of Sacramento, told the Sacramento Bee that his client’s legal filings are part of a longtime effort under the ADA.

“He has tried to gain access to public places in his motorized chair in order to take advantage of the opportunities offered to the general public, and when barred from that access, tried to convince the owners of the business to rectify the problem. And if they fail to do so, he brings an action to enforce the rights of both himself and others suffering from disabilities,” Segal said.

Johnson’s criminal trial has been delayed until next year, partly because of his three-week hospitalization for COVID-19, according to the Sacramento Bee. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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