524 U.S. 206 (1998), 97-634, Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections v. Yeskey

Docket Nº:Case No. 97-634
Citation:524 U.S. 206, 118 S.Ct. 1952, 141 L.Ed.2d 215, 66 U.S.L.W. 4481
Party Name:PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS et al. v. YESKEY
Case Date:June 15, 1998
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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524 U.S. 206 (1998)

118 S.Ct. 1952, 141 L.Ed.2d 215, 66 U.S.L.W. 4481

PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS et al.

v.

YESKEY

Case No. 97-634

United States Supreme Court

June 15, 1998

Argued April 28, 1998

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Respondent Yeskey was sentenced to 18 to 36 months in a Pennsylvania correctional facility, but was recommended for placement in a Motivational Boot Camp for first-time offenders, the successful completion of which would have led to his parole in just six months. When he was refused admission because of his medical history of hypertension, he sued petitioners, Pennsylvania's Department of Corrections and several officials, alleging that the exclusion violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), Title II of which prohibits a "public entity" from discriminating against a "qualified individual with a disability" on account of that disability, 42 U.S.C.§ 12132. The District Court dismissed for failure to state a claim, holding the ADA inapplicable to state prison inmates, but the Third Circuit reversed.

Held:

State prisons fall squarely within Title II's statutory definition of "public entity," which includes "any . . . instrumentality of a State . . . or local government." § 12131(1)(B). Unlike the situation that obtained in Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U.S. 452, there is no ambiguous exception that renders the coverage uncertain. For that reason the plain-statement requirement articulated in Gregory, if applicable to federal intrusion upon the administration of state prisons, has been met. Petitioners' attempts to derive an intent not to cover prisons from the statutory references to the "benefits" of programs and to "qualified individual" are rejected; some prison programs, such as this one, have benefits and are restricted to qualified inmates. The statute's lack of ambiguity also requires rejection of petitioners' appeal to the doctrine of constitutional doubt. The Court does not address the issue whether applying the ADA to state prisons is a constitutional exercise of Congress's power under either the Commerce Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment because it was addressed by neither of the lower courts. Pp. 208-213.

118 F.3d 168, affirmed.

Scalia, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

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Paul A. Tufano argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs was Syndi L. Guido.

Donald Specter argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Eve H. Cervantez and Arlene B. Mayerson.

Irving L. Gornstein argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance. On the brief were Solicitor General Waxman, Acting Assistant Attorney General Lee, Deputy Solicitor General Underwood, Paul R. Q. Wolfson, Jessica Dunsay Silver, Linda F. Thome, and Seth M. Galanter. [*]

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Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question before us is whether Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 104 Stat. 337, 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq., which prohibits a "public entity" from discriminating against a "qualified individual with a disability" on account of that individual's disability, see § 12132, covers inmates in state prisons. Respondent Ronald Yeskey was such an inmate, sentenced in May 1994 to serve 18 to 36 months in a Pennsylvania correctional facility. The sentencing court recommended that he be placed in Pennsylvania's Motivational Boot Camp for first-time offenders, the successful completion of which would have led to his release on parole in just six months. See Pa. Stat. Ann., Tit. 61,§ 1121 et seq. (Purdon Supp. 1998). Because of his medical history of hypertension, however, he was refused admission. He filed this suit against petitioners, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Department of Corrections and several department officials, alleging that his exclusion from the Boot Camp violated the ADA. The District Court dismissed for failure to state a claim, Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6), holding the ADA inapplicable to inmates in state prisons; the Third Circuit reversed, 118 F.3d 168 (1997); we granted certiorari, 522 U.S. 1086 (1998).

Petitioners argue that state prisoners are not covered by the ADA for the same reason we held in Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U.S. 452 (1991), that state judges were not covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Gregory relied on the canon of construction that absent an "unmistakably clear" expression of intent to "alter the usual constitutional balance between the

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States and the Federal Government," we will interpret a statute to preserve rather than destroy the States' "substantial sovereign powers." 501 U.S., at 460-461 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). It may well be that exercising ultimate control over the management of state prisons, like establishing the qualifications of state government officials, is a traditional and essential state function subject to the plain-statement rule of Gregory. "One of the primary functions of government," we have said, "is the preservation of societal order through enforcement of the criminal law, and the maintenance of penal institutions is an essential part of that task." Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 412(1974), overruled on other grounds, Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401, 414 (1989). "It is difficult to imagine an activity in which a State has a stronger interest," Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 491 (1973).

Assuming, without deciding, that the plain-statement rule does govern application of the ADA to the administration of state prisons, we think the requirement of the rule is amply met: the statute's language unmistakably includes State prisons and prisoners within its coverage. The situation here is not comparable to that in Gregory. There, although the ADEA plainly covered state employees, it contained an exception for " 'appointee[s] on the policymaking level' " which made it impossible for us to "conclude that the statute plainly cover[ed] appointed state judges." 501...

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