Attorney addresses suspicious ADA lawsuits in court; client a no-show
May 02, 2017 10:47 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The Americans with Disabilities Act is important. It protects people with disabilities from discrimination and ensures they get the same level of access as able-bodied people.
But there is a growing cottage industry of lawyers trying to use the act to fill their own pockets. The judge in court Monday wanted to know if that's what is happening here. Is lawyer Sharon Pomeranz using the courts to make a quick buck?
At the center of all 99 lawsuits are these two women -- Pomeranz and her client Alyssa Carton. Carton said in a 4 Investigates interview that she contacted the controversial Phoenix-based group AID and they put her in touch with Pomeranz. A digital trail connects Pomeranz to AID.
Carton also said AID hired a driver to take her from business to business so that she could "experience the barrier" in each building in an effort to build these lawsuits.
In court Monday, Pomeranz told the judge she did not know anything about AID. She told reporters afterward the same thing.
Chris Ramirez: "Can you explain why most of the comments you made to the judge today totally contradict the comments that Alyssa Carton made to me?"
KOAT: "And to me as well."
Ramirez: "Your statements on oath, on the record, contradict what Alyssa told me."
Pomeranz: "Sorry to hear that, sir."
KOAT: "You're an officer of the court, and you said she wasn't being paid."
Pomeranz: "That's correct."
Chris: "Don't you think you're going to have to explain that to the judge?"
Pomeranz: "I did, and the judge was fine with my explanation."
Despite orders to be there, Carton did not show up. Pomeranz told the judge that Carton depends on public transportation and her bus broke down. Pomeranz reiterated that to reporters.
KOAT: "Why couldn't you pick her up and take her here?"
Pomeranz: "I didn't have time before coming here because I traveled from a distance to take my children to school before coming here. She said she would meet me here and her bus broke down."
KOAT: "What about taking a cab?"
Pomeranz: "Her bus broke down so she wasn't in a cab, ma'am."
KOB investigated that claim. Records from the city of Albuquerque Transit Department reveal that at 8:33 a.m. a Sun Van, which is ABQ's Rides para-transit bus, arrived at Carton's house and the driver noted Carton said she is not ready. Then at 8:59 a.m., the driver notes a cancellation per Carton.
This proves there was never a broken bus.
For months Pomeranz dodged questions, threatened reporters and evaded attorneys. Monday was the first time reporters had a chance to ask the hard questions.
So imagine our surprise when she grabbed our microphone.
Ramirez: "Excuse me? Let this go. Let this go."
Pomeranz: "You are violating my rights. I don't want to be recorded."
Ramirez: "Ma'am, release your hands from the microphone."
Pomeranz: "Then step away at least 100 feet. I don't want to be recorded. Stop following me."
Ramirez: Don't touch our equipment ever again."
Pomeranz: "Step away from me." (bam)
Ramirez: "Oh, you just hit me?"
Pomeranz: "I hit your mic because it's in my face improperly.
Ramirez: "You just hit me."
Pomeranz: "You are harassing me. Stop following me."
Federal court charges $400 for filing fees. The judge indicated it is possible Carton may be on the hook for $40,000 in fees. Additionally, defense lawyers want her to pay their attorney fees.
Ramirez: "Alyssa Carton may be on the hook for $40,000 in filing fees."
Pomeranz: "That's not what the court ruled, sir."
KOAT: "Well, that's what the court was saying."
Pomeranz: "That's not what the court was saying."
Ramirez: "Are you going to pay those fees for Ms. Carton."
Pomeranz: "No, but you are going to pay for harassing me."
KOAT: "How are we going to pay for harassing you? You gonna sue us too?"
Chris: "Watch out. Watch out you almost hit our photographer, ma'am.
KOAT: "And me."
KOB's questions for Pomeranz were tough. But consider this, the small business owners who 4 Investigates spoke said the tough economy is stressful. If they do have an ADA violation, they're happy to make the fix.
But they believe that what Pomeranz and Carton did is not ADA advocacy. They believe they've been extorted.
Since Carton was a no-show in court, the judge did not make a ruling. She is rescheduling the hearing and ordering Carton to show up, even if the U.S. Marshals have to pick her up.
Updated: May 02, 2017 10:47 AM
Created: May 01, 2017 05:54 PM
Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved