Nov. 19, 2002 --
On Monday, Nov. 18, the Supreme Court agreed to take up a case that will determine whether states can be sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act's Title 2. The case, Medical Board of California v. Hason, No. 02-479, will be heard early next year, and "is likely to have broad ramifications for those who traditionally have faced discrimination in public services and been subject to stigma because of their handicaps," wrote USA Today's Joan Biskupic ("Court to review states' services for the disabled," online at http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2002-11-19-court-usat_x.htm)
The case, as Washington Post Supreme Court reporter Charles Lane wrote, "pits the court's recent drive for states' rights against the movement to expand legal protections for the disabled." ("Justices Agree to Review Disabilities Act Protections," The Washington Post, Nov. 19, online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A7537-2002Nov18?language=printer)
The case is Medical Board of California v. Hason, 02-479.
Since 1996, the Court has handed down a series of rulings that say the states as "sovereign entities" cannot be sued under various federal antidiscrimination laws, and has repeatedly narrowed the scope of the ADA. In Feb., 2001, in a 5-4 vote in the case Garrett v. Univ of Alabama, the Court said disabled state workers cannot sue their employers under the ADA, insisting that the federal law does not trump states' constitutional immunity against being sued for damages in federal courts.
California doctor Michael J. Hason sued the state's medical licensing agency in 1999 for discrimination, saying it unfairly rejected him for a medical license because of his history of mental illness. Lawyers for the California medical board say a license was not a ``service, program or activity'' as specified under the ADA Title 2, and they insist in any case that the Garrett decision means they are immune from suits. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Hason; the state appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Hason case "tests whether that same rule of immunity applies when the state is accused of discriminating against the disabled in providing public services, writes the Los Angeles Times' David Savage ("Court to Hear Discrimination Case; Los Angeles Times November 19; can be obtained for a limited time through http://www.latimes.com/search/lat_all.jsp?Query=hason (free registration required)),
Another Title 2 ADA case appears headed for the Supreme Court as well, also from California. The city of Sacramento plans to petition the Court to hear a case it lost in June, when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was required under the Americans with Disabilities Act's Title 2 to ensure its sidewalks were passable and usable by people in wheelchairs. The city has asked other cities to join it as "friends of the court" to "overturn the 9th Circuit. (Read a story about the issue at http://www.raggededgemagazine.com/drn/sacramento110102.html )
Read more about the Supreme Court's approach to the ADA at the Independent Living Research Utilization website at http://www.ilru.org/online/handouts/2002/Nguyen/material.html
An overview of the Supreme Court's ADA decisions can be found at http://www.accessiblesociety.org/topics/topicsindex.shtml#sup