by Paul Edwards

It is amazing to me that more than five years have passed since Stephanie Dohmen was denied access to a training center operated by the Department for the Blind in Iowa as long as she wished to be accompanied by her guide dog. I found myself wondering what had happened in the case, so I did a little research. Here is the latest status.

Many will remember that Dohmen filed suit in federal and state court. She eventually withdrew her federal complaints and stuck with the case in state court. The court decided that she did not have the right to file her complaint as she did. They made no decision about whether she was right or wrong in her allegations about the training center or her treatment. Instead they threw the case out because, in their opinion, Dohmen had not exhausted all remedies before resorting to the court trial. Essentially, what this meant was that, according to the lower court, she hadn't done enough with the agency to see if she could find a solution. Therefore the court decided it would not hear any more of the case.

Earlier this year, the Iowa Court of Appeals overturned that decision. They decided that the department had waited too long to raise the issue of exhausting remedies and therefore they have now sent the case back, demanding that the court take up the matter again.

So, more than five years after this case occurred, we have still not moved out of the starting blocks. I suppose we should be glad that the case is still open and that the appeals court has sent the case back. On the other hand, it seems sad that the courts appear to be increasingly prepared to find or accept ways to avoid ruling on cases rather than accepting their responsibility and dealing with the very real issues that need settling. Both Dohmen and the lady in New York who filed a suit against fast-food restaurants because they did not have large-print menus could be pardoned for thinking that their issues have not been taken seriously by a judicial system that says its aim is to uphold and affirm justice for all.

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