Federal judges are demanding answers from 16 Florida attorneys who routinely file Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuits.
They want to know why they keep breaking the rules when they file those ADA lawsuits, which accuse businesses of not complying with laws to make their facilities accessible to people with disabilities.
Some local business owners say the lawsuits are not social justice, but a shakedown of mom and pop shops.
Of the 16 ADA attorneys in question, court filings show Joshua Sheskin has gotten in trouble with federal judges the most - 83 times.
Sheskin was the subject of an Action News Jax Investigation last year.
His now-former client Douglas Longhini has sued more than 150 businesses across the state, including about two dozen in Jacksonville.
“I was being used, and mistreated, and exploited." Lawyer who was the subject of one of my @ActionNewsJax Investigations in August is now in hot water with federal judges. I'm live at 6 @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/iAgRdtsUyI— Jenna Bourne (@jennaANjax) May 21, 2018
Sheskin and Longhini sued Who’z Next barber shop in Baymeadows for ADA violations like the bathroom mirror being too high, and the soap dispenser and door knob being too difficult to use.
The barber shop owner told Action News Jax he’s a disabled veteran himself, and spent thousands to settle the lawsuit.
In August 2017, Action News Jax questioned Sheskin about a Longhini lawsuit that claimed he visited a Wing Stop, Papa John’s and Subway on the same day.
“I mean, that was me yesterday, that I visited three restaurants in one day – breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said Sheskin in August.
On Monday, Sheskin told Action News Jax he resigned days after that interview, after just four months on the job.
“I was being used, and mistreated, and exploited, frankly, because there was no possible way for one attorney to handle all of these cases,” said Sheskin.
Sheskin said he filed to withdraw from those ADA cases and claims his former employer filed dozens of lawsuits under his name without his consent.
Sheskin now represents businesses that are targeted in ADA lawsuits.
“People with disabilities should be able to access things that people without disabilities can access. However, the way it is practiced for the most part – not everyone, but for the most part – is basically a way that is completely irresponsible, is not what the law intended, and devastates business communities,” said Sheskin. “I just think it happens to be destroyed by the lawyers who practice it.”
Sheskin and 15 other attorneys have until May 29 to file, in writing, why they shouldn’t be punished or banned from filing future ADA lawsuits.
Action News Jax asked Sheskin whether Longhini really did go inside the Jacksonville businesses he sued.
“Doug Longhini is one of the few people in ADA law who actually does this and goes into the businesses and is very vigilant about inspecting them and seeing that they comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Sheskin, “A large number of these lawsuits are filed by plaintiffs who either, I find out, can walk and are not disabled, or they’re being filed by looking at Google Earth and they only pertain to things like parking spaces.”
Action News Jax called and emailed Sheskin’s former employer, Federal Disability Advocates - now known as Federal Legal Advocates – to get its side of the story. The firm has not responded to our questions.
Here are the 16 ADA attorneys in trouble with federal judges in the Middle District of Florida’s Orlando Division:
Thomas B. Bacon
Philip M. Cullen, III
Christine N. Failey
Barry S. Mittelberg
Eric Matthew Rodriguez
Joshua Howard Sheskin
Mario Elias Lopez
Nadine A. Brown
Andrew C. Enfield
William T. Leveille, II
Anthony J. Perez
Alfredo Miguel Garcia-Menocal
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