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Stetson College of Law builds model courtroom for the elderly and disabled


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Tampa Bay, Fla. - National advocates for the rights of seniors and the disabled gathered at Stetson University College of Law on Sept. 16 for the dedication of the nation’s first “elder-friendly” courtroom.

“We can only hope that this courtroom inspires the creation of others,” said AARP CEO Bill Novelli. “You have created a place of law and justice that is accessible to anyone and everyone.”

The courtroom has touch screens, electronic gates that open automatically, hearing amplification devices, flat-panel monitors, refreshable Braille displays, a multi-lingual software speech synthesizer and translator and other features specially designed for people with reduced vision, limited hearing or other physical disabilities.

As U.S. Attorney General, Dick Thornburgh shepherded the American with Disabilities Act. He reminded the courtroom audience of landmark Supreme Court case Lane V. Tennessee, in which a disabled man was forced to climb out of his wheelchair and crawl up the steps of a courthouse to attend a judicial proceeding. “The Eleazer courtroom doesn’t simply accommodate wheelchair access, though that is monumental in its own right. It goes so much further. Its technology will enable people with various sensory impairments to participate fully in our judicial process,” Thornburgh said.

Lawrence Davidow, President of the National Academy for Elder Law Attorneys said construction of the new courtroom is the beginning of a movement to increase access, dignity, respect and involvement of all people with disabilities, regardless of age, in every courtroom in the United States. “This courtroom is all about enhancing the lives of people with special needs as they age. We intimately know what this courtroom means to them; access to justice with dignity, enhancing their ability to be a part of a process that directly impacts their lives, without barriers, seamlessly allowing their disabilities to be a non-issue,” Davidow said.

Stetson professors Rebecca Morgan and Roberta Flowers spearheaded courtroom construction. “This innovative courtroom combines cutting-edge technology while recognizing that our system of justice will always be about people,” said Flowers.
The courtroom will be used initially for Consumer Protection Program activities that educate the elderly community about various types of consumer fraud. In the spring, elder law and advocacy students will use the new facility, and Morgan and Flowers are working to make the courtroom available for actual court proceedings in the near future. Stetson dedicated the courtroom in honor of Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus William R. Eleazer.

To view images of the courtroom, please visit http://www.law.stetson.edu/tour. For more info, please click  here.

Photo # 2 , Pictured (L to R): Fred Schaub (Stetson grad ’84), Hon. Dick Thornburgh (keynote speaker and former U.S. Attorney General), Hon. David Demers (Stetson grad ’72), William D. Novelli (CEO of AARP), William R. Eleazer (Professor Emeritus and courtroom namesake), Charlie Canerday (architect), Jan Eleazer (William Eleazer’s wife), Professor Rebecca Morgan (Professor of Law and Stetson’s Boston Asset Management Faculty Chair in Elder Law), Darby Dickerson (Dean and Vice President, Stetson University College of Law), Roberta Flowers (Professor of Law and Chair, Center for Excellence in Advocacy), Linda Parker (wife of late Judge Jerry Parker, chamber namesake), Ron Marvin (portrait artist), Shrin Vesely (Stetson grad ’94 and SLA President)

Photo # 4 , Pictured (L to R): Lawrence Davidow (President of NAELA), Rebecca Morgan (Professor of Law and Stetson’s Boston Asset Management Faculty Chair in Elder Law), William Novelli (CEO of AARP), Hon. Dick Thornburgh (keynote speaker and former U.S. Attorney General), H. Douglas Lee (President, Stetson University), Darby Dickerson (Dean and Vice President, Stetson University College of Law), William R. Eleazer (Professor Emeritus and courtroom namesake), Roberta Flowers (Professor of Law and Chair, Center for Excellence in Advocacy), Shirin Vesely (Stetson grad ’94 and Stetson Lawyers Association President), Charles A. Samarkos (Stetson grad ’89 and Shareholder; Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns LLP)