341 F.3d 474 (6th Cir. 2003), 01-2335, Jones v. City of Monroe, MI

Docket Nº:01-2335
Citation:341 F.3d 474
Party Name:Jones v. City of Monroe, MI
Case Date:August 21, 2003
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 474

341 F.3d 474 (6th Cir. 2003)

Helen JONES, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

CITY OF MONROE, MICHIGAN, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 01-2335.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

August 21, 2003

Argued: Oct. 17, 2002.

J. Mark Finnegan (argued and briefed), Heberle & Finnegan, Ann Arbor, MI, David F. Grenn (briefed), Monroe, MI, for Appellant.

Robert D. Goldstein (argued and briefed), Garan, Lucow, Miller, Seward, Cooper & Becker, Grand Blanc, MI, Thomas R. Paxton (briefed), Garan, Lucow, Miller, Seward, Cooper & Becker, Detroit, MI, for Appellee.

Before BATCHELDER, COLE, and GIBBONS, Circuit Judges.

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GIBBONS, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which BATCHELDER, J., joined. COLE, J. (pp. 481-491), delivered a separate dissenting opinion.

OPINION

GIBBONS, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff-appellant Helen Jones, who has multiple sclerosis, brought suit alleging that the municipal parking program of the City of Monroe, Michigan ("Monroe") violates Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA") and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Jones filed a motion for a preliminary injunction requesting that the district court order Monroe to modify its parking program to grant Jones free all-day parking adjacent to her place of employment. Specifically, Jones asked that the district court order Monroe to reserve a free parking space for Jones adjacent to her office or to cease ticketing Jones when she parks in a designated one-hour parking space for the entire work day. The district court denied Jones's motion for a preliminary injunction on the ground that she failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits. Jones appeals this order. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction.

I.

Jones suffers from multiple sclerosis, an incurable, usually progressive disease. Her disability affects her sight, balance and ability to walk. Jones customarily uses a wheelchair, although on occasion she walks for short distances with the use of a cane. Jones is employed by the Salvation Army Harbor Light ("Salvation Army") as a substance abuse counselor for deaf and hard-of-hearing clients. The Salvation Army is located in downtown Monroe.

Because the building which houses the Salvation Army's offices lacks private parking spaces, Jones must either park in a space provided by Monroe or in a private commercial parking area. Monroe has several parking areas that provide free parking in the downtown vicinity. One such parking area is immediately adjacent to the downtown Monroe business district as well as Jones's office. These free parking spaces, however, are each limited to one-hour parking only. Several parking spaces designated for disabled users are located in this one-hour parking area. These spaces are similarly limited to one-hour parking. Monroe also provides free all-day parking in several lots located within two blocks of Jones's office. According to Jones, she is not able to walk from any of these free all-day parking lots to her office due to her disability.

On numerous occasions Jones has parked her car in a one-hour parking space adjacent to her office for the duration of a work day. Monroe has issued Jones dozens of parking tickets based on her violations of the one-hour time limitation. Jones displays a handicapped parking permit on her vehicle, but Monroe contends that the permit does not allow her to violate the one-hour time limitation.

On April 16, 2001, Jones brought suit alleging that Monroe's refusal to modify its municipal parking program constitutes unlawful and intentional discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of federal law. 1 In conjunction with filing her complaint,

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Jones sought a preliminary injunction. On June 15, 2001, the district court held a hearing on Jones's motion for a preliminary injunction. On August 28, 2001, the district court denied Jones's motion for a preliminary injunction on the basis that Jones had failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of her claim.

This timely appeal followed.

II.

On appeal, Jones argues that the district court erred in refusing to enjoin Monroe's allegedly discriminatory parking policies and require that Monroe cease ticketing Jones when she parks in a designated one-hour parking space or provide Jones with a free all-day parking space adjacent to her office pending a final resolution on the merits. This court reviews a lower court's decision on whether to grant a preliminary injunction for an abuse of discretion. Taubman Co. v. Webfeats, 319 F.3d 770, 774 (6th Cir. 2003); In re DeLorean Motor Co., 755 F.2d 1223, 1228 (6th Cir. 1985). The district court's determination will be disturbed only if the district court relied upon clearly erroneous findings of fact, improperly applied the governing law, or used an erroneous legal standard. Nightclubs, Inc. v. City of Paducah, 202 F.3d 884, 888 (6th Cir. 2000) (quoting Connection Distrib. Co. v. Reno, 154 F.3d 281, 288 (6th Cir. 1998)). Under this standard, we must review the district court's legal conclusions de novo and its factual findings for clear error. Taubman, 319 F.3d at 774.

When considering a motion for preliminary injunction, the district court should consider four factors: (1) whether the moving party has a strong likelihood of success on the merits; (2) whether the moving party will suffer irreparable injury without the injunction; (3) whether the issuance of the injunction would cause substantial harm to others; and (4) whether the public interest would be served by issuance of the injunction. Nightclubs, Inc., 202 F.3d at 888. The four considerations applicable to preliminary injunction decisions are factors to be balanced, not prerequisites that must be met. DeLorean, 755 F.2d at 1228. Moreover, a district court is not required to make specific findings concerning each of the four factors used in determining a motion for preliminary injunction if fewer factors are dispositive of the issue. Id.; Mascio v. Public Employees Retirement Sys. of Ohio, 160 F.3d 310, 312 (6th Cir. 1998) (affirming the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction based on the district court's conclusion that the plaintiff had demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits).

Jones argues that the district court erred in finding that Monroe's parking program complies with federal law and thereby concluding that Jones had failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of her claim. 2 Jones further claims

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that the district court erred in failing to address Monroe's alleged discrimination in refusing to provide Jones with "meaningful access" to the parking program and refusing to grant her a reasonable accommodation.

Jones alleges that Monroe's parking program violates Title II of the ADA, 3 which provides that "no qualified individual with a disability shall by reason of such disability be excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity." 42 U.S.C. § 12132. Section 12131 defines "qualified individual with a disability" as "an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies, or practices ... meets the essential eligibility requirements for receipt of services or the participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity." 42 U.S.C. § 12131. The ADA's prohibition of discrimination in services, programs, or activities "encompasses virtually everything a public entity does." Johnson v. City of Saline, 151 F.3d 564, 569 (6th Cir. 1998). To make out a prima facie case under Title II of the ADA, a plaintiff must establish that (1) she has a disability; (2) she is otherwise qualified; and (3) she is being excluded from participation in, being denied the benefits of, or being subjected to discrimination under the program solely because of her disability. See Kaltenberger v. Ohio College of Podiatric Med., 162 F.3d 432, 435 (6th Cir. 1998); see also Burns v. City of Columbus, 91 F.3d 836, 841 (6th Cir. 1996) (setting forth the prima facie case under the Rehabilitation Act); Doe v. University of Maryland Med. Sys. Corp., 50 F.3d 1261, 1265 (4th Cir. 1995) (finding that in order to establish disability discrimination under Title II of the ADA, a plaintiff must prove: (1) that he has a disability; (2) that he is otherwise qualified for the benefit in question; and (3) that he was excluded from the benefit due to discrimination solely on the basis of the disability).

The district court did not address whether Jones is disabled or whether she was otherwise qualified for the benefit in question. Instead, the district court concluded that Monroe is not excluding Jones from participating in or denying her the benefits of the parking system. In evaluating the correctness of this conclusion, we must first examine the nature of the benefit offered by Monroe. 4 Initially, we note that the benefit is not appropriately defined as free downtown parking generally, but rather as the provision of all-day and one-hour parking in specific locations. See Alexander v. Choate, 469 U.S. 287, 303, 105 S.Ct. 712, 83 L.Ed.2d 661 (1985) (holding that "adequate health care" was too

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"amorphous" a concept to define the government service or benefit to which disabled persons may assert a statutory right of access and accommodation).

In the one-hour parking area specifically addressed by Jones, Monroe is offering the benefit of free short-term parking to individuals who wish to transact retail or other business in the downtown business district. The short-term, one-hour nature of the benefit is designed to help downtown businesses by making parking spaces in close proximity to them more readily available. Monroe quite logically has determined that...

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