138 F.3d 893 (11th Cir. 1998), 97-8538, L.C. by Zimring v. Olmstead

Docket Nº:97-8538.
Citation:138 F.3d 893
Party Name:Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 1188 L.C., by Jonathan ZIMRING as guardian ad litem and next friend; E.W., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. Tommy OLMSTEAD, Commissioner of the Department of Human Resources; Richard Fields, Superintendent of Georgia Regional Hospital at Atlanta; Earnestine Pittman, Executive Director of the Fulton County Regional Board, all in their
Case Date:April 08, 1998
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Page 893

138 F.3d 893 (11th Cir. 1998)

Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 1188

L.C., by Jonathan ZIMRING as guardian ad litem and next

friend; E.W., Plaintiffs-Appellees,


Tommy OLMSTEAD, Commissioner of the Department of Human

Resources; Richard Fields, Superintendent of Georgia

Regional Hospital at Atlanta; Earnestine Pittman, Executive

Director of the Fulton County Regional Board, all in their

official capacities, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 97-8538.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

April 8, 1998

Page 894

William F. Amideo, Office of the State Atty. Gen., Atlanta, GA, Patricia Downing, Atlanta, GA, Jefferson James Davis, Decatur, GA, for Defendants-Appellants.

Susan C. Jamieson, Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Decatur, GA, Steven D. Caley, Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Atlanta, GA, for Plaintiffs-Appellees.

Marie K. McElderry, USDOJ, Washington, DC, for Amicus: U.S.A.

Michele Arington, Howrey & Simon, Lois G. Williams, Washington, DC, for Amicus: American Assoc. of Mental Retardation.

Ellen M. Saideman, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, for Amicus: Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities, et al.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Page 895

Before TJOFLAT and BARKETT, Circuit Judges, and PROPST [*], Senior District Judge.

BARKETT, Circuit Judge:

Tommy Olmstead, Richard Fields, and Earnestine Pittman, (collectively "the State"), defendants in the district court, appeal an adverse summary judgment granting declaratory and injunctive relief to plaintiffs L.C. and E.W., 1 two patients then-housed in a state psychiatric hospital. 2 In May 1995, L.C. filed this action challenging her continued confinement at the Georgia Regional Hospital in Atlanta ("GRH-A"), a psychiatric hospital where persons with mental disabilities are cared for in a segregated environment. The State's failure to provide her with care in the most integrated setting appropriate to her needs, she argued, violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134 (1995), the Attorney General's Title II regulations, 28 C.F.R. § 35.130 (1997), and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In January 1996, E.W., a patient also confined at GRH-A, intervened in this action, raising identical claims.

In granting summary judgment in favor of L.C. and E.W., the district court declared that the State's failure to place them in an appropriate community-based treatment program, instead confining them at the state hospital, violates the anti-discrimination provision of Title II of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12132, and its accompanying regulations. The district court enjoined the State from violating plaintiffs' rights under the ADA, determined that the denial of community placements could not be justified by the State's purported lack of funds, and ordered the State to release E.W. to an appropriate community-based treatment program and to provide L.C. with all appropriate services necessary to maintain her current placement in a community-based treatment program.

We affirm the district court's judgment that the State discriminated against L.C. and E.W. by confining them in a segregated institution rather than in an integrated community-based program. However, we remand this case to the district court for further findings related to the State's defense that the relief sought by plaintiffs would "fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity." 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(b)(7). 3


This case presents the question, one of first impression in this circuit, whether

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§ 12132 of the ADA and the Department of Justice's integration regulation, 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(d), prohibit a state from confining a disabled individual in a state-run institution where that individual could be appropriately treated in a more integrated community setting. The State's principal argument is that the district court's application of § 12132 and its accompanying regulations is contrary to the ADA's requirement that a plaintiff prove that he or she faced discrimination "by reason of such disability." § 12132. The State contends that L.C. and E.W. have not shown that they were denied community placements available to non-disabled individuals because of disability. In other words, the State argues that the ADA requires a comparison of the treatment of individuals with disabilities against that of healthy non-disabled persons. However, as the State must concede, the confinement of L.C. and E.W. at GRH-A is attributable to their disabilities, thereby proving the very element the State argues is missing. Reduced to its essence, the State's argument is that Title II of the ADA affords no protection to individuals with disabilities who receive public services designed only for individuals with disabilities.

The State has not pointed to any legal authority that supports such a reading of Title II of the ADA and its integration regulation, § 35.130(d), and we can find none. To the contrary, we find overwhelming authority in the plain language of Title II of the ADA, its legislative history, the Attorney General's Title II regulations, and the Justice Department's consistent interpretation of those regulations, to support L.C. and E.W.'s position.

We analyze the applicability of the ADA and its regulations first by discussing the plain language of Title II of the ADA and § 35.130(d), the integration regulation, and the Attorney General's interpretation of that language. We then consider, in light of congressional intent, the State's argument that, notwithstanding the plain language of § 35.130(d) and the Attorney General's interpretation of that regulation, the ADA does not apply in these circumstances. We next address the State's secondary argument that certain disputed issues of fact preclude summary judgment. Finally, we consider the State's argument that funding limitations preclude it from complying with the ADA.


Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the provision of public services by state and local governments. Section 12132 provides that "no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity." § 12132.

Under the statutory scheme of Title II, Congress entrusted the Attorney General with the authority to define the scope of the prohibitions set forth in § 12132. In § 12134 of the ADA, Congress directed the Attorney General to promulgate regulations further defining Title II's anti-discrimination mandate. See 42 U.S.C. § 12134(a); H.R. Rep. 101-485, pt. 3 at 52 (1990) ("[T]itle II does not list all the forms of discrimination that the title is intended to prohibit. Thus, the purpose of this section is to direct the Attorney General to issue regulations setting forth the forms of discrimination prohibited."). Congress additionally mandated that the Attorney General's regulations, except with regard to program accessibility, existing facilities, and communications issues, be "consistent with this chapter and with the coordination regulations under part 41 of title 28, Code of Federal Regulations ... applicable to recipients of Federal financial assistance under [section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act]." 42 U.S.C. § 12134(b). 4

In response to this congressional mandate, the Attorney General issued regulations defining the forms of discrimination

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prohibited by Title II of the ADA. Because Congress left to the Attorney General the task of giving meaning to § 12132's broad prohibition on discrimination in public services, the Attorney General's regulations must be "given controlling weight unless they are arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary to the statute." Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. NRDC, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 844, 104 S.Ct. 2778, 2782, 81 L.Ed.2d 694 (1984); Bledsoe v. Palm Beach County Soil & Water Conserv. Dist., 133 F.3d 816, 822-23 (11th Cir.1998); Harris v. H & W Contracting Co., 102 F.3d 516, 521 (11th Cir.1996); Helen L. v. DiDario, 46 F.3d 325, 331-32 (3d Cir.1995).

Under the Attorney General's Title II implementing regulations, "[a] public entity shall administer services, programs, and activities in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities." 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(d). There can be little question that the plain language of § 35.130(d) prohibits a state from providing services to individuals with disabilities in an unnecessarily segregated setting. See 28 C.F.R. Pt. 35, App. A at 478 (interpreting § 35.130(d) to require placement "in a setting that enables individuals with disabilities to interact with non-disabled persons to the fullest extent possible"). In participating in this and other similar litigation, the Attorney General has consistently adopted this interpretation of § 35.130(d), and, as such, it is entitled to substantial deference. Thomas Jefferson Univ. v. Shalala, 512 U.S. 504, 512, 114 S.Ct. 2381, 2386-87, 129 L.Ed.2d 405 (1994); University Health Servs., Inc. v. Health & Human Servs., 120 F.3d 1145, 1150 (11th Cir.1997).

By definition, where, as here, the State confines an individual with a disability in an institutionalized setting when a community placement is appropriate, the State has violated the core principle underlying the ADA's integration mandate. Placement in the community provides an integrated treatment setting, allowing disabled individuals to interact with non-disabled persons--an opportunity permitted only in limited circumstances within the walls of segregated state institutions such as GRH-A...

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