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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Page 206

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...

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