Jennifer Mathis, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Jennifer Mathis is Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. The Center is a national non-profit legal advocacy organization that advances the rights of people with mental disabilities. Jennifer’s work focuses primarily on the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) and the Medicaid rights of adults and children with disabilities. Jennifer uses litigation as well as legislative and administrative policy advocacy to promote equal opportunity for people with disabilities in all areas of life, including community living, health care, housing, employment, education, parental and family rights, voting, and other areas. Jennifer played a key role in coordinating strategy and briefing when the Olmstead case was heard by the Supreme Court, and has litigated numerous community integration cases before and after. She has been at the Bazelon Center since 1999, with the exception of one year during which she left to work as a Special Assistant to Commissioner Chai Feldblum at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, helping to draft regulations implementing the ADA Amendments Act and the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act.
Mike Comer, Patterson Comer Law Firm
Mike Comer, a partner in Patterson Comer Law Firm who has a background as a trial lawyer advocating for plaintiffs in civil cases, is specialized in enforcing the protections of the law for people with disabilities. He has secured substantial compensatory verdicts and settlements for victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation as he has helped to improve the quality of life for his clients and their families. His work has brought cases in both federal and state courts including suits under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 14th Amendment through 42 USC §1983, federal housing laws and a variety of state-law causes of action. His clients have included residents, patients and clients of public and private facilities and programs, their families and caregivers.
Mike, who set out to be a schoolteacher, did his undergraduate and graduate study in education at the University of Alabama and is a 1998 graduate of its School of Law. He is a member of the Tuscaloosa County and Alabama Bar Associations and is admitted to practice in Alabama state courts, the Northern, Middle and Southern District Courts in Alabama, and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. He currently serves on the federal Bench & Bar Advisory Committee for the Northern District of Alabama.
Robert D. Dinerstein, American University—Washington College of Law
Robert D. Dinerstein is acting dean, professor of law and director of the Disability Rights Law Clinic at American University, Washington College of Law (WCL), where he has taught since 1983. Prior to coming to WCL, he was an attorney for five years at the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, where among other things he litigated cases concerning conditions in state institutions for people with intellectual disabilities, psychosocial disabilities, and juveniles. He was counsel and then lead counsel for the United States as litigating amicus curiae in the Wyatt v. Ireland litigation (the successor to Wyatt v. Stickney) from 1978-1982. In the area of disability rights, his published work and presentations have focused on issues of consent, supported decision making, deinstitutionalization of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Olmstead v. L.C., and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He has an A.B. degree from Cornell University and a J.D. degree from Yale Law School.
Jasmine E. Harris, University of California—Davis School of Law
Jasmine E. Harris is a Professor of Law and Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall Research Scholar at the University of California—Davis School of Law. Professor Harris is an expert in disability law, anti-discrimination law, and evidence. She is a law and equality scholar with a particular focus on disability. Professor Harris combines approaches in law and the humanities to better understand the role that perception, aesthetics, and emotions play in group subordination. By accounting for aesthetic preferences, she argues, we can better design anti-discrimination law to address structural biases and develop novel remedial pathways. Professor Harris’s recent articles have or will appear in such publications as the Columbia Law Review, New York University Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review (print and online), Yale Law Journal Forum, Cornell Law Review Online, American Journal of Law and Medicine, and the Journal of Legal Education.
Professor Harris also writes frequently about disability and equality law for popular audiences. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Tribune Wire, in addition to academic blogs such as the American Constitution Society’s Expert Forum, Harvard Law School Petrie-Flom Center’s Bill of Health, and ImmigrationProf Blog. Professor Harris has been widely quoted and appears in such publications as the New York Times, TIME Magazine, Forbes, and USA Today.
Stan Murphy, Murphy & Murphy LLC
Stan Murphy is a partner at the law firm of Murphy & Murphy, LLC, and an adjunct professor at the University of Alabama Law School. Much of his law practice is focused on securing the legal protections of persons with disabilities. Previously he served as Senior Counsel in the Office of Counsel for the University of Alabama System. Earlier he was special assistant to the Secretary of the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (1975-1977) and assistant to the Vice-President of Student Affairs at the University of Alabama (1970-1975).
Stan is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, the U.S. district courts in Alabama and the Middle District of Florida. He earned a BA from Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania where he was president of the Students’ Association. He received his JD from the University of Alabama School of Law, where he was among the founders and served as the first editor-in-chief of the Law and Psychology Review.
Susan Stefan, JD
Until the pandemic, Susan Stefan was a Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law, where she taught Disability Rights Law, Mental Health Law, and Health Law. She currently represents people with psychiatric disabilities at the trial and appellate level in Massachusetts. She has written four books, numerous textbook and treatise chapters, and articles on the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities. She has testified as an expert on consent decrees in institutional conditions cases in several federal court cases. She worked as an expert consultant for Amnesty International in Ireland, the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science, and the Substances and Mental Health Services Administration. She is also a disability rights advocate who has successfully litigated a number of civil rights cases seeking equal treatment and inclusion for people with disabilities. Ms. Stefan has received numerous advocacy and teaching awards. She graduated from Stanford Law School, received a Master’s Degree from Cambridge University in England, and graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University.
James Tucker, Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program
James A. Tucker is Director of the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP), a service program of the University of Alabama School of Law. He earned his B.S. in Finance from the University of Alabama (1982) and his J.D. from Emory University (1986). He worked at Florida Rural Legal Services, ACLU of Alabama, and Southern Poverty Law Center before coming to ADAP. He has litigated class actions in federal and state courts addressing disability, gender, and race discrimination as well as mental health, foster care, education, employment, housing, voting, corrections, and Medicaid issues. He is a member of the Bar in Alabama, Florida and Georgia (inactive). He has received numerous awards for his disability advocacy in Alabama. He has been married for 38 years and is the father of two adult daughters.
In 1970, the landmark Wyatt v. Stickney case emerged out of Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama—establishing nationally influential minimum standards for the treatment of mentally ill and intellectually disabled individuals in institutional settings. To celebrate and reflect on this important case, the Law & Psychology Review will be hosting a virtual symposium from 9 a.m. CT to 12 p.m. CT on Friday, March 19. The symposium, entitled “50 Years Later: Revisiting Wyatt v. Stickney,” will discuss how this case has influenced decades of national policy and explore its continued impact on disability law.