546 U.S. 151 (2006), 04-1203, United States v. Georgia

Docket Nº:Nos. 04-1203, 04-1236.
Citation:546 U.S. 151, 126 S.Ct. 877, 163 L.Ed.2d 650
Party Name:UNITED STATES v. GEORGIA et al. Tony Goodman, Petitioner, v. Georgia et al.
Case Date:January 10, 2006
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 151

546 U.S. 151 (2006)

126 S.Ct. 877, 163 L.Ed.2d 650



GEORGIA et al.

Tony Goodman, Petitioner,


Georgia et al.

Nos. 04-1203, 04-1236.

United States Supreme Court

January 10, 2006

Argued Nov. 9, 2005.



Goodman, petitioner in No. 04-1236, is a paraplegic who sued respondent state defendants and others, challenging the conditions of his confinement in a Georgia prison under, inter alia, 42 U.S.C. §1983 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. As relevant here, the Federal District Court dismissed the §1983 claims because Goodman's allegations were vague, and granted respondents summary judgment on the Title II money damages claims because they were barred by state sovereign immunity. The United States, petitioner in No. 04-1203, intervened on appeal. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the District Court's judgment as to the Title II claims, but reversed the §1983 ruling, finding that Goodman had alleged facts sufficient to support a limited number of Eighth Amendment claims [126 S.Ct. 878] against state agents and should be permitted to amend his complaint. This Court granted certiorari to decide the validity of Title II's abrogation of state sovereign immunity.


Insofar as Title II creates a private cause of action for damages against States for conduct that actually violates the Fourteenth Amendment, Title II validly abrogates state sovereign immunity. Pp. 880-882.

(a) Because this Court assumes that the Eleventh Circuit correctly held that Goodman had alleged actual Eighth Amendment violations for purposes of §1983, and because respondents do not dispute Goodman's claim that this same conduct violated Title II, Goodman's Title II money damages claims were evidently based, at least in part, on conduct that independently violated §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment. No one doubts that §5 grants Congress the power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment's provisions by creating private remedies against the States for actual violations of those provisions. This includes the power to abrogate state sovereign immunity by authorizing private suits for damages against the States. Thus, the Eleventh Circuit erred in dismissing those of Goodman's claims based on conduct that violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 880-882.

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(b) Once Goodman's complaint is amended, the lower courts will be best situated to determine in the first instance, on a claim-by-claim basis, (1) which aspects of the State's alleged conduct violated Title II; (2) to what extent such misconduct also violated the Fourteenth Amendment; and (3) insofar as such conduct violated Title II but did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment, whether Congress's purported abrogation of sovereign immunity in such contexts is nevertheless valid. Pp. 882-883.

120 Fed. Appx. 785, reversed and remanded.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. STEVENS, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which GINSBURG, J., joined.


Paul D. Clement, Washington, DC, for petitioner in No. 04-1203.

Samuel R. Bagenstos, for petitioner in No. 04-1236.

Gene C. Schaerr, for Tennessee, et al., as amici curiae, by special leave of the Court, supporting the respondents.

Gregory A. Castanias, Jones Day, Washington, DC, Jordana R. Sternberg, Jones Day, Atlanta, GA, Thurbert E. Baker, Attorney General, Kathleen M. Pacious, Deputy Attorney General, John C. Jones, Senior Assistant Attorney General, David E. Langford, Assistant Attorney General, Atlanta, GA, for respondents.



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We consider whether a disabled inmate in a state prison may sue the State for money damages under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 104 Stat. 337, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §12131 et seq. (2000 ed. and Supp. II).



Title II of the ADA provides that "no qualified individual with a disability shall, [126 S.Ct. 879] by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity." §12132 (2000 ed.). A " 'qualified individual with a disability' " is defined as "an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies, or practices, the removal of architectural, communication, or transportation barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids and services,

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meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or the participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity." §12131(2). The Act defines " 'public entity' " to include "any State or local government" and "any department, agency, . . . or other instrumentality of a State," §12131(1). We have previously held that this term includes state prisons. See Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections v. Yeskey, 524 U.S. 206, 210, 118 S.Ct. 1952, 141 L.Ed.2d 215 (1998). Title II authorizes suits by private citizens for money damages against public entities that violate §12132. See 42 U.S.C. §12133 (incorporating by reference 29 U.S.C. §794a).

In enacting the ADA, Congress "invoke [d] the sweep of congressional authority, including the power to enforce the fourteenth amendment...." 42 U.S.C. §12101(b)(4). Moreover, the Act provides that "[a] State shall not be immune under the eleventh amendment to the Constitution of the United States from an action in [a] Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction for a violation of this chapter." §12202. We have accepted this latter statement as an unequivocal expression of Congress's intent to abrogate state sovereign immunity. See Board of Trustees of Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 363-364, 121 S.Ct. 955, 148 L.Ed.2d 866 (2001).


Petitioner in No. 04-1236, Tony Goodman, is a paraplegic inmate in the Georgia prison system who, at all relevant times, was housed at the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville. After filing numerous administrative grievances in the state prison system, Goodman filed a pro se complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia challenging the conditions of his confinement. He named as defendants the State of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Corrections (state defendants) and several individual prison...

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