We blogged here and here about the Ninth Circuit's recent decision in Baughman v. Walt Disney, which may have a major (and favorable) impact on disability-rights law. The plaintiff's lawyer, David Geffen, recently gave us permission to share an amazing story about his oral argument before the Ninth Circuit. It's sometimes said that oral argument doesn't matter in most (or nearly all) cases. But no one doubts that it matters sometimes.
Recall that, in Baughman, Disney had permitted the plaintiff, Tina Baughman, to use a motorized wheelchair but denied her the right to visit Disneyland using a Segway, a technology that is better for her condition than a motorized wheelchair. Ms. Baughman wanted to take her daughter to Disneyland for her 8th birthday. After all, as Chief Judge Kozinski explained for the Ninth Circuit panel (which also included Judges Reinhardt and William Fletcher), Disneyland is "the happiest place on earth."
Now, decide for yourself whether oral argument mattered in Baughman. In David Geffen's words . . .
At the oral argument, I approached to address the court in my spanking new electric wheelchair, having used a manual chair for the past 32 years of my spinal cord injury. The podium height was not adjustable. I pretended not to notice the three-judge panel watching me in uncomfortable silence as I pulled up directly behind the podium almost completely out of their range of vision. I then pressed a button and slowly began to rise into their sights. As I rose, they nodded with delighted approval. I began:
I just got this new wheelchair. One of the features I love about it is the ability to adjust my height to standing level. It's great to be able to see people eye to eye again. I would love to be able to move around like this all the time. That's very much the way my client feels. She uses a Segway as her mobility device. She does not want to have to sit in a wheelchair and she shouldn't have to.