Back in 2019, I noted a spike in cases brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) against small businesses in Silicon Valley, and asked readers to share their experiences. The issue hit a nerve with a number of people, and so I followed up a few months later with another blog post that delved more deeply into the problem, which highlighted the questionable advocacy efforts of Scott Johnson and the Center for Disability Access, which had filed numerous ADA lawsuits against small businesses up and down the State of California.
In the months following, these “abusive” lawsuits drew a great deal of attention, and even spurred efforts by city councils and district attorneys to halt their spread. While these ventures undertaken by the San Francisco and Los Angeles D.A.’s offices against the law firm that filed Johnson’s ADA claims were received with great fanfare and enthusiasm, however, they ended up running aground on the rocky shoals of litigation privilege.
Much as Al Capone’s reign of terror was ultimately stopped by the IRS, however, it appears that Scott Johnson’s ADA litigation campaign, which arose in the Sacramento area and advanced to the Bay Area may be sidelined, for a while at least, as a result of his tax irregularities. By pleading guilty last month in a Sacramento federal court to a single count of filing a false tax return, Johnson now faces a fine of $250,000 and 18 months of home confinement (as an alternative to prison due to the fact that he is a quadriplegic who uses a wheelchair and a guide dog). Although Johnson’s attorney, Malcolm Segal, took pains to point out that this case was only about taxes and not his client’s ADA activities, there are more than a few who will view these events as some small measure of justice for his ADA endeavors.