Catherine Quoted in the Carmichael Times and American River Messenger in Regards to Serial ADA Filer Scott Johnson
SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) – Scott Norris Johnson, 61, of Carmichael, an attorney known throughout Northern California for suing under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been sentenced in federal court to 18 months of home detention after having pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns. Johnson was also ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution and a $50,000 fine.
The plea before U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez in Sacramento federal court closes the books on a three-count tax indictment against Johnson from 2019, when he was still operating at the height of his time visiting businesses and suing over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Johnson’s attorney, Malcolm Segal, said his client’s plea agreement involves a dispute over tax returns, not any charge involving his serial ADA lawsuits. Neither Johnson nor Segal responded to a request for comment.
Johnson, a quadriplegic who uses a motorized wheelchair, is well known in the Northern California business community for suing retailers for alleged violations of the federal disability-access law. His complaint letters frequently arrive in flurries at numerous businesses in a single town or neighborhood, leaving owners to settle or risk likely higher costs of litigating his allegations.
As of 2020, Johnson had filed approximately 4,000 suits, according to documents filed with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. The majority of those lawsuits were settled.
Under the ADA, someone suing for violations, particularly if the suit is settled, gets at least a portion of that settlement. Yet according to the plea agreement, from 2012 through 2014, Johnson did not declare some of that income to the IRS.
During those years, Johnson received settlements anywhere from $93,000 to more than $1 million. As such, he owed more than $250,000 to the federal government.
Johnson will have a year of supervised release, according to a previously announced plea agreement. While on probation, he won’t be able to apply to be reinstated to the California Bar. During the period of home confinement, Johnson won’t be able to file ADA lawsuits in federal or state courts.
News of Johnson’s recent sentence came as no surprise to Carmichael attorney Catherine Corfee of the Corfee Stone Law Corp. (Corfee Stone) which has for years been actively cautioning local businesses in Fair Oaks and Sacramento County to be pro-active and responsive to potential ADA lawsuits which may be filed against them.
“His (Johnson’s) sentence is just a slap on the wrist,” she said. “This may take Johnson out of circulation for a while, and I suspect he’ll be back.”
In her observation, the number of ADA compliance cases filed in both federal and state court has been increasing each year, she said.
Johnson and his corporation, Disabled Access Prevents Injuries Inc., filed approximately 4,000 lawsuits in California’s Eastern and Northern district courts under the ADA and related California laws between 2003 and April 2020, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Signed into law in July 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) aims to make buildings and transportation accessible for those with disabilities and to protect them from discrimination in employment. Store owners and restaurants can often face a fine of $4,000 for each individual ADA violation.
In her blog, Corfee outlines active steps which local business owners and restaurants should be taking to protect themselves against serial ADA filings.
Corfee, a graduate of UC Berkeley and the McGeorge School of Law, has been in professional legal practice since 1991. She has practiced ADA and California disability access law since 1985 and has published case law on the subject. She also worked for two prior United States Magistrate judges in the Eastern District Court of California.
Many ADA cases can become a “game” for attorney’s fees as the disabled person’s attorney tries to protract litigation to earn more money in fees to later reclaim such in a settlement, a motion, and/or at trial.
Corfee said she recommends business owners retain the services of an ADA compliance expert, such as a Certified Access Specialist (CASp), to physically inspect their business or commercial facility to provide specific access recommendations.
“We can also prepare for our business clients ADA policy and procedural manuals, much like an employee handbook,” she said.
Visit the Corfee Stone Law Corp. on the web at: corfeestonelaw.com
Local business owners with specific questions regarding the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) or compliance with law can call Catherine Corfee directly at (916) 487-5441, or by cell phone at (916) 812-7322 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to schedule a minimum one-hour business consultation. She is also available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com,