Disability Rights Legal Center
Practice Area: Public interest, civil rights
Years in Practice: 11
Law School: UC Berkeley School of Law
As director of the Disability Rights Legal Center’s Civil Rights Project, Shawna Parks’ work is making a difference for a range of clients with disabilities — from children in the foster care system to incarcerated adults. Early last year, Parks helped fi le a lawsuit against the City and County of Los Angeles alleging they weren’t doing enough to prepare to meet the needs of disabled residents during emergencies. The case, co-counseled by the center and Disability Rights Advocates, has been certified as a class action lawsuit and is believed to be one of the most comprehensive of its kind. It seeks to represent an estimated 450,000 to 800,000 Los Angeles residents who have disabilities. Parks’ efforts may also make it easier for people with disabilities to simply get around the city. Presently, she is counsel in a class action lawsuit fi led against the City of Los Angeles to force it to remove barriers, add curb cutouts and fi x sidewalks citywide to make them accessible for the disabled. Parks is also busy with a suit to compel Los Angeles County jails to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Pretrial Ritual: Work hard and stay late.
Biggest Career Break: Parks’ career hit a high mark in 2007, when she was lead on her first major federal class action suit, Jackson v. Cal State University San Bernardino. The case resulted in $11.7 million in physical improvements to the campus and an agreement under which the university would change its policies to ensure students with disabilities are accommodated and protected.