Chapter 2: Pennsylvania Protection and Advocacy
01:53:08:11 - 01:53:40:10 Lisa: And, uh, The Developmental Disabilities Act also funded protection advocacy systems.
Ilene: Correct, so their first. They started out as a DD program, um, when they first started, the protection advocacy systems. There's always been this somewhat of a mistrust by the other disability groups as to whether they're really equal partners because over time, the protection advocacy system was expanded to include mental health, to include other disabilities and now basically includes all disabilities but it really started out as a DD program.
01:53:41:03 - 01:55:06:24 Lisa: And, what were they really setup to do. What was their mission?
Ilene: That's really evolved over time, Um, I would say they would now define their mission and I mean nationally as, uh, to protect and advocate for the legal rights of persons with disabilities but back then the idea of legal rights was really, not really where their focus was and the legal advocacy didn't really come into play for some years after that. Pennsylvania was very early in doing a lot of legal work. We didn't see that as much nationally as we did in Pennsylvania. In some places we did but when I used to go to the national, uh, meetings, we were sort of odd man out on a lot of these legal issues. When we won the, um, ADA case which established the integration mandate under The ADA, which was Helen L, I went down to present on it with Steve Gold, um, they really couldn't understand what the significance of that case was. They were really not a legally focused organization back then. That really didn't happen until afterwards. Now they're, now the pendulum has swung totally in the other direction. They're a primarily legally focused organization. Most of The P&A's and what I'm saying is just generalizing. It's certainly not true. There are exceptions to that and there are some P&A's that have done exceptional legal work right from the beginning but, um, the pendulum has swung more in the direction of legal rights, um, in the last ten to fifteen years.
01:55:07:02 - 01:56:48:07 Lisa: We certainly should say Pennsylvania's P&A was not set up initially to provide that kind of legal service but while at Pitt you formed the disability law project so maybe you could talk about the evolution of that.
Ilene: Part of that mission was to become, uh, a backup center or assistance to the protection advocacy system so I, trying to be a good steward of the money given to me. Go to meet with the executive director of The P&A and, um, this is someone who only lasted about six months. He was fired fairly soon after I had this conversation with him, by no, but just by coincidence. Uh, and I go to meet him and I explain to him who I am and what our interest are and how I thought we, our interest were aligned and that we could work together and he said, I don't really like lawyers. I'm not interested in anything to do with lawyers and he basically had, didn't even want to talk to me so I left. He was fired and they hired a new executive director and that's when our relationship really began with the protection advocacy system because they, they saw and because it says so right in the statute. A legal requirement that they provide legal services to people with disabilities and rather than do that directly, they started sub-contracting with us to do it and then ultimately with the education law centers as well, to do it. So over the next, I'd say from the late 70's to, to, to about five years ago, all the legal work of the protection advocates system was sub-contracted to one of the two law centers.
01:56:53:10 - 01:58:02:29 Lisa: When you first started working in partnership with the protection and advocacy. What were the types of works you initially pursued with them?
Ilene: Um, well, we, we, we, we got off to a lot of wrong starts before I think we got off to the right starts. Their initial idea was that we hire private attorneys to do the work and so they set aside a pot of money that we were supposed to use to hire private attorneys to do disability work and it, it really was not a good model and after about a year we let go of that one and they began to fund us directly. In the beginning we did a lot of individual special education cases. Remember, I was just a baby attorney back then. I hadn't had a lot of experience. Um, so we did a lot of individual cases, um, and, and there were really, it was me and one other attorney so, um, a friend, a friend of mine from PILCOP, Frank Laski used to always say, that the minimum number of attorneys you really need to do systemic litigation is three and I, that may not be true but certainly was true for me. We really weren't set up back then to do the kind of litigation we ulimately began doing in the 80's.
01:58:03:20 - 01:58:40:01 Lisa: You relocated to Philadelphia after years at Pitt, maybe four years at Pitt.
Ilene: Right, I was at Pitt for four years. I, the grant ended and I moved to Philadelphia for personal reasons. Um, at that time, uh, we then, I was then able to acquire additional funding from The P&A and I began what was then a freestanding, uh, disabilities. It was, first it was the, I think the developmental disabilities law project, I think and then we changed our name, I'm not sure I remember but, um, I established the free, as a free standing entity and we incorporated, I think in the early 80's as a, as a public interest law firm.
01:58:40:18 - 01:59:15:16 Lisa: Did you find more support for the type of work you were interested in, in Philadelphia?
Ilene: Absolutely, there's a couple things that's unique, that are unique to Philadelphia. Philadelphia has more than a few dozen, more than two dozen public interest law firms so there's an incredible, uh, support system for people who want to do public interest law. Second of all there were people like Tom Gilhool, Frank Laski, David Ferleger, Steve Gold from whom I could learn. And, so I went from being someone who really didn't have any kind of role model on how to do this work to someone who had all the role models I needed and I learned a lot from them.
01:59:17:03 - 01:59:50:14 Lisa: Ilene, you initially opened offices, um, in or maybe moved in with The Education Law Center. Was that with a mind toward working with The Education Law Center?
Ilene: Yeah, I, I, it was an oversight not to mention of course, Janet Stotland and Len Reisner in that list but we, uh, moved in with them, uh, rented a space from them. Uh, The Pennhurst master rented a space from them so we were all there in together. The Pennhurst master, us and ELC all had this tiny set of offices at, uh, in The Lewis Tower building, in Philadelphia.
01:59:50:20 - 02:00:33:24 Lisa: I bet you had great lunchtime conversations. So do you, you said that these relationships influenced the way you approached litigation. You were learning from all of these folks. Did they also, um, kind of influence the way you pursued advocacy?
Ilene: Well, I learned a lot about advocacy really before I left Pittsburgh. I learned that a lot from the existing groups. From the parents, from the other advocacy groups in, in, uh, Pittsburgh and I think I really formed my views about the rights of people with disabilities long before I moved to Philadelphia. What happened when I moved to Philadelphia, I learned as a lawyer how to carry out some of those advocacy initiatives.
More Interview Chapters
- Early Career
- YOU ARE HERE: Pennsylvania Protection and Advocacy
- Work Involving State Centers
- Significant Legal Cases
- Outreach Efforts and the System Today
About Ilene Shane, Esq.
Born: 1948, Philadelphia, PA
Retired. Formerly CEO, Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania; and Executive Director, Disabilities Law Project
ADA, Carolyn Clark v Cohen, Disability Rights Network, Disabilities Law Project, Education Law Center, Embreeville, Families, Helen L. v Didario, Olmstead, Pennhurst, Pennsylvania Protection and Advocacy, Philadelphia State Hospital (Byberry), Western Center