451 U.S. 390 (1981), 8317, University of Texas v. Camenisch

Docket Nº:No. 8317
Citation:451 U.S. 390, 101 S.Ct. 1830, 68 L.Ed.2d 175
Party Name:University of Texas v. Camenisch
Case Date:April 29, 1981
Court:United States Supreme Court

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451 U.S. 390 (1981)

101 S.Ct. 1830, 68 L.Ed.2d 175

University of Texas



No. 8317

United States Supreme Court

April 29, 1981

Argued March 31, 1981



Respondent, a deaf graduate student at petitioner University, filed a complaint in Federal District Court, alleging that the University had violated § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by discriminatorily refusing to pay for a sign language interpreter for respondent, and declaratory and injunctive relief was sought. Finding a possibility that respondent would be irreparably harmed in the absence of an injunction, and that he was likely to prevail on the merits, the District Court, inter alia, granted a preliminary injunction on the condition that respondent post a security bond pending the outcome of the litigation. The Court of Appeals affirmed the grant of the injunction. In the meantime, the University had obeyed the injunction by paying for respondent's interpreter and respondent had been graduated, but the Court of Appeals rejected a suggestion that the case was moot, noting that the issue of who should bear the cost of the interpreter remained to be decided.

Held: The question whether a preliminary injunction should have been issued is moot, because the terms of the injunction have been fully and irrevocably carried out, but, as the Court of Appeals correctly noted, the question whether the University must pay for the interpreter remains for trial on the merits. Pp. 393-398.

(a) To suggest that the decisions of the courts below, to the extent that they considered respondent's likelihood of success on the merits in granting a preliminary injunction, were tantamount to decisions on the [101 S.Ct. 1832] underlying merits, and thus that the preliminary injunction issue is not truly moot, improperly equates "likelihood of success" with "success," and ignores the significant procedural differences between preliminary and permanent injunctions. P. 394.

(b) Where a federal district court has granted a preliminary injunction, the parties generally will have had the benefit neither of a full opportunity to present their cases nor of a final judicial decision based on the actual merits of the controversy. Thus, when the injunctive aspects of a case become moot on appeal of a preliminary injunction, any issue preserved by an injunction bond can generally not be resolved on appeal, but must be resolved in a trial on the merits. By contrast, where a federal district court has granted a permanent injunction, the

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parties will already have had their trial on the merits, and, even if the case would otherwise be moot, a determination can be had on appeal of the correctness of the trial court's decision on the merits, since the case has been saved from mootness by the injunction bond. Pp. 395 398.

616 F.2d 127, vacated and remanded.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. BURGER, C.J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 398.

STEWART, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

On March 1, 1978, Walter Camenisch, a deaf graduate student at the University of Texas, filed a complaint alleging

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that the University had violated § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 87 Stat. 394, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (1976 ed., Supp. III), which provides that

[n]o otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

The complaint alleged that the University received federal funds and that the University had discriminatorily refused to pay for a sign-language interpreter for Camenisch. The complaint asked the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas to grant declaratory relief and to

[p]reliminarily and permanently order defendants to appoint an interpreter for the plaintiff while he is a student in good standing at the defendant University.

The District Court applied the "Fifth Circuit standard for temporary relief to see if the injunction sought is appropriate." That standard, which was enunciated in Canal Authority of Florida v. Callaway, 489 F.2d 567 (1974), requires that a federal district court consider four factors when deciding whether to grant a preliminary injunction: whether the plaintiff will be irreparably harmed if the injunction does not issue; whether the defendant will be harmed if the injunction does issue; whether the public interest will be served by the injunction; and whether the plaintiff is likely to prevail on the merits. Finding a possibility that Camenisch would be irreparably harmed in the absence of an injunction, and finding a substantial likelihood that Camenisch would prevail on the merits, the District Court granted a preliminary injunction requiring that the University pay for Camenisch's interpreter, but the court did so on the condition that Camenisch "post a security bond in the amount of $3,000.00 pending the outcome of this litigation pursuant to Rule 65(c), F.R.C.P." The District Court also ordered that the action be stayed

pending a final administrative determination on the merits, and that, as a condition of preliminary injunctive relief, Plaintiff

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be required to initiate a complaint with HEW requesting the relief sought herein.

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit likewise applied the Canal Authority test, and found hat the balance of hardships weighed in favor of granting an injunction, and [101 S.Ct. 1833] that Camenisch's claim would be successful on the merits. The Court of Appeals therefore affirmed the grant of the preliminary injunction. 616 F.2d 127. The appellate court ruled, however, that Camenisch was not obligated to pursue any administrative remedy that the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare might provide, and it therefore vacated that part of the District Court's order staying the litigation pending administrative action.

By the time the Court of Appeals had acted, the University had obeyed the injunction by paying for Camenisch's interpreter, and Camenisch had been graduated. The Court of Appeals, however, rejected a suggestion that the case was therefore moot. The court said: "[A] justiciable issue remains: whose responsibility is it to pay for this interpreter?" Id. at 130-131. We granted certiorari, 449 U.S. 950, and Camenisch has now raised the mootness issue before this Court.

The Court of Appeals correctly held that the case as a whole is not moot, since, as that court noted, it remains to be decided who should ultimately bear the cost of the interpreter. However, the issue before the Court of Appeals was not who should pay for the interpreter, but rather whether the District Court had abused its discretion in issuing a preliminary injunction requiring the University to pay for him. Brown v. Chote, 411 U.S. 452, 457; Alabama v. United States, 279 U.S. 229. The two issues are significantly different, since whether the preliminary injunction should have issued depended on the balance of factors listed in Canal Authority, while whether the University should ultimately bear the cost of the interpreter depends on a final resolution of the merits of Camenisch's case.

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This, then, is simply another instance in which one issue in a case has become moot, but the case, as a whole, remains alive because other issues have not become moot. See, e.g., Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486. In Ammond v. McGahn, 532 F.2d 325 (CA3 1976), for instance, the issue of preliminary injunctive relief became moot, but an issue of damages remained. The court said:


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