534 U.S. 533 (2002), 00-1514, Raygor v. Regents of the Univ. of Minn.

Docket Nº:Case No. 00-1514
Citation:534 U.S. 533, 122 S.Ct. 999, 152 L.Ed.2d 27, 70 U.S.L.W. 4159
Party Name:RAYGOR et al. v. REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA et al.
Case Date:February 27, 2002
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 533

534 U.S. 533 (2002)

122 S.Ct. 999, 152 L.Ed.2d 27, 70 U.S.L.W. 4159

RAYGOR et al.

v.

REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA et al.

Case No. 00-1514

United States Supreme Court

February 27, 2002

Argued November 26, 2001

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF MINNESOTA

Syllabus

Petitioners each filed complaints in Federal District Court against respondent university (hereinafter respondent), an arm of the State of Minnesota, alleging a federal cause of action under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and a state law discrimination action under the federal supplemental jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1367, which purports to toll the limitations period for supplemental claims while they are pending in federal court and for 30 days after they are dismissed, § 1367(d). Respondent's answers included the affirmative defense that the suits were barred by the State's Eleventh Amendment immunity. The District Court subsequently dismissed the claims, and petitioners withdrew their federal appeal after this Court held that the ADEA does not abrogate the States' sovereign immunity, see Kimel v. Florida Bd. of Regents, 528 U.S. 62, 92. In the meantime, petitioners had refiled their state law claims in state court. Respondent contended that the claims were barred by the applicable state statute of limitations and that the federal supplemental jurisdiction statute did not toll the limitations period on those claims because the Federal District Court never had subject matter jurisdiction over the ADEA claims. Agreeing, the State District Court dismissed the suit, but the Minnesota Appeals Court reversed. Reversing, in turn, the State Supreme Court held § 1367(d) unconstitutional when applied to claims against nonconsenting state defendants, such as respondent.

Held:

Section 1367(d) does not toll the limitations period for state law claims asserted against nonconsenting state defendants that are dismissed on Eleventh Amendment grounds. Pp. 539-548.

(a) Petitioners sought to have their state law claims heard in federal court as supplemental claims under § 1367(a). That grant of jurisdiction does not extend to claims against nonconsenting state defendants, see Blatchford v. Native Village of Noatak, 501 U.S. 775, but the question remains whether § 1367(d) tolls the limitations period for state law claims asserted under § 1367(a) but subsequently dismissed on Eleventh Amendment grounds. Pp. 539-542.

(b) Because § 1367(d), on its face, purports to apply to dismissals of "any claim asserted under subsection (a)," it could be broadly read to apply to any such claim regardless of the reason for dismissal. But

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reading subsection (d) to apply when state law claims are dismissed on Eleventh Amendment grounds raises serious doubts about the provision's constitutionality given state sovereign immunity principles. Such a reading would require a State to defend against a claim in state court that had never been filed in that court until some indeterminate time after the original limitations period had elapsed. There is a rebuttable presumption that equitable tolling under federal law applies to waivers of the United States' immunity. However, this Court has never held that waivers of a State's immunity presumptively include federal tolling rules, nor is it obvious that such a presumption would be a realistic assessment of legislative intent. Moreover, a state sovereign prescribes the terms and conditions on which it consents to be sued in its own courts, Beers v. Arkansas, 20 How. 527, 529, and only the sovereign's consent can qualify the absolute character of its immunity from suit in those courts, Nevada v. Hall, 440 U.S. 410, 414. The notion that federal tolling of a state limitations period constitutes an abrogation of state sovereign immunity as to claims against state defendants at least raises a serious constitutional doubt. Thus, this Court has good reason to rely on the statutory construction principle that Congress must make its intention to alter the constitutional balance between the States and the Federal Government unmistakably clear in the statute's language, Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 65. Section 1367(d)'s lack of clarity is apparent in two respects. With respect to the claims covered, § 1367(d) reflects no specific or unequivocal intent to toll the limitations period for claims asserted against nonconsenting States, especially considering that such claims do not fall within § 1367(a)'s scope. With respect to the dismissals covered, § 1367(d) occurs in the context of a statute that specifically contemplates only a few grounds for dismissal, none based on the Eleventh Amendment. Section 1367(d) may not clearly exclude tolling for claims against non consenting States dismissed on Eleventh Amendment grounds, but this Court is looking for a clear statement of what the rule includes, not what it excludes. Pp. 542-546.

(c) Petitioners argue that the tolling provision should be interpreted to apply to their claims because it was enacted to prevent due process violations caused by state claim preclusion and anti-claim-splitting laws. However, since it is far from clear whether Congress intended tolling to apply when claims against nonconsenting States were dismissed on Eleventh Amendment grounds, it is not relevant whether Congress acted pursuant to § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. And there is no merit to petitioners' claim that respondent consented to suit in federal court, since it raised its Eleventh Amendment defense at the earliest

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opportunity by including that defense in its answers to the complaints. Pp. 546-547.

620 N.W.2d 680, affirmed.

O'Connor, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, JJ., joined. Ginsburg, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. 548. Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Souter and Breyer, JJ., joined, post, p. 549.

Howard L. Bolter argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs was Eric Schnapper.

Mark B. Rotenberg argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Lorie S. Gildea and Tracy M. Smith.

Deputy Solicitor General Clement argued the cause for intervenor United States. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Olson, Assistant Attorney General McCallum, Barbara McDowell, Mark B. Stern, and Alisa B. Klein.[*]

Justice O'Connor delivered the opinion of the Court.

In federal court, petitioners asserted state law claims under the supplemental jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C.

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§ 1367 (1994 ed.), against respondent university, an arm of the State of Minnesota. Those claims were dismissed on Eleventh Amendment grounds, and petitioners refiled them in state court past the period of limitations. The supplemental jurisdiction statute purports to toll the period of limitations for supplemental claims while they are pending in federal court and for 30 days after they are dismissed. § 1367(d). The Minnesota Supreme Court held that provision unconstitutional when applied to claims against nonconsenting state defendants, such as respondent university, and dismissed petitioners' claims. We affirm the judgment on the alternative ground that the tolling provision does not apply to claims filed in federal court against nonconsenting States.

I

In August 1995, petitioners Lance Raygor and James Goodchild filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The charges alleged that their employer, the University of Minnesota, discriminated against them on the basis of age in December 1994 by attempting to compel them to accept early retirement at the age of 52. After petitioners refused to retire, the university allegedly reclassified petitioners' jobs so as to reduce their salaries. App. to Pet. for Cert. A-45; Brief for Petitioners 3.

The EEOC cross-filed petitioners' charges with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) and later issued a right-to-sue letter on June 6, 1996, advising that petitioners could file a lawsuit within 90 days under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 81 Stat. 602, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (1994 ed. and Supp. V). Brief for United States 5. The MDHR likewise issued right-to-sue letters on July 17, 1996, advising petitioners that they could file suit within 45 days under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), Minn. Stat., ch. 363 (1991). 620 N.W.2d 680, 681 (Minn. 2001); App. to Pet. for Cert. A-46 to A-47.

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On or about August 29, 1996, each petitioner filed a separate complaint against respondent Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota (hereinafter respondent), in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. 620 N.W. 2d, at 681; App. to Pet. for Cert. A-41. Each complaint alleged a federal cause of action under the ADEA and a state cause of action under the MHRA. The suits were subsequently consolidated. 604 N.W.2d 128, 130 (Minn. App. 2000). Respondent filed answers to these complaints in September 1996, setting forth eight affirmative defenses, including that the suits were " 'barred in whole or in part by Defendant's Eleventh Amendment immunity.' " Brief for Petitioners 4. The District Court entered a scheduling plan that the parties agreed upon. According to the plan, discovery would finish by May 30, 1997, and dispositive motions would be filed by July 15, 1997. Ibid. The parties then engaged in discovery as well as mediation. Ibid.

In early July 1997, respondent filed its motion to dismiss petitioners' claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Brief for Petitioners 5, n. 5. The motion argued that the federal and state law claims...

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