Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services v. Florida Nursing Home Association

Decision Date02 March 1981
Docket NumberNo. 80-532,80-532
Citation101 S.Ct. 1032,450 U.S. 147,67 L.Ed.2d 132
PartiesFLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES et al. v. FLORIDA NURSING HOME ASSOCIATION et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

See 451 U.S. 933, 101 S.Ct. 2008.

M. Stephen Turner, Culpepper, Beatty & Turner, Tallahassee, Fla., for petitioners.

A. Thomas Mihok, Dempsey & Slaughter, P.A., Orlando, Fla., Shaw & Warner, Miami, Fla., for respondents.

Bill Allain, Atty. Gen., Jim R. Bruce, II, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., State of Miss., Jackson, Miss., Francis X. Bellotti, Atty. Gen., Mitchell J. Sikora, Jr., Scott A. Smith, Asst. Attys. Gen., Com. of Mass., Boston, Mass., Warren R. Spannaus, Atty. Gen., William P. Marshall, Asst. Atty. Gen., State of Minn., St. Paul, Minn., Tyrone C. Fahner, Atty. Gen., Springfield, Ill., James C. O'Connell, David A. Schlanger, Sp. Asst. Attys. Gen., State of Ill., Chicago Ill., for petitioners as amici curiae.

PER CURIAM.

Petitioners, the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services and its Secretary, seek review of a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ordering them to make payments to various nursing homes. These payments represent the amount that Florida was found to have underpaid these nursing homes in the course of its Medicaid reimbursements from July 1, 1976, to October 18, 1977. Because we conclude that the court below misapplied the prevailing standard for finding a waiver of the State's immunity under the Eleventh Amendment, we grant a writ of certiorari and reverse.

I

In 1972, Congress amended the Medicaid Program to provide that every "skilled nursing facility and intermediate care facility" must be reimbursed by participating States on a "cost related basis." 86 Stat. 1426, 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(13)(E). This amendment was to take effect on July 1, 1976, ibid., and had the effect of altering some reimbursement arrangements based on "flat rates" established by the States. Regulations implementing this change were not promulgated by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) until 1976. As a result, the regulations provided that HEW would not enforce the new "cost related" reimbursement requirement until January 1, 1978. 45 CFR § 250.30(a)(3)(iv) (1976).1

In March 1977, respondents, an association of Florida nursing homes and various individual nursing homes in southern Florida, brought suit in federal court against the Secretary of HEW and petitioners. They argued that the delay in enforcement created by the implementing regulations was inconsistent with the statutory directive that cost-related reimbursements begin on July 1, 1976. In addition to prospective relief, they sought retroactive relief in the form of payments by the State of the difference between the reimbursement they had received since July 1, 1976, and the amounts they would have received under a cost-related system. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida held the regulations invalid, relying on its previous decision in Golden Isles Convalescent Center, Inc. v. Califano, 442 F.Supp. 201 (1977), aff'd 616 F.2d 1355 (CA5), cert. denied sub nom. Taylor v. Golden Isles Con- valescent Center, Inc., 449 U.S. 872, 101 S.Ct. 562, 66 L.Ed.2d 466 (1980). These two cases were consolidated for consideration of the availability of retroactive relief, and the District Court held that such relief was barred by the Eleventh Amendment.

On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the ruling that the regulations were invalid, but reversed the District Court's determination that retroactive relief was barred by the Eleventh Amendment. 616 F.2d 1355 (1980).2 The court acknowledged that retroactive monetary relief against a State in federal court is forbidden by the Eleventh Amendment "if not consented to by the state." Id., at 1362. It found the requisite consent, however, based on two acts of the State. First, Florida law provides that the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services is a "body corporate" with the capacity to "sue and be sued," Fla.Stat. § 402.34 (1979). 616 F.2d, at 1363. In addition to this general waiver of sovereign immunity, the court found a specific waiver of the Eleventh Amendment's immunity from suit in federal court in an agreement under the Medicaid Program in which the Department agreed to "recognize and abide by all State and Federal Laws, Regulations, and Guidelines applicable to participation in an administration of, the Title XIX Medicaid Program." Ibid. "By contracting with appellants to be bound by all federal laws applicable to the Medicaid program, the state has expressly waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity and consented to suit in federal court regarding any action by providers alleging a breach of these laws." Ibid.

II

The analysis in this case is controlled by our decision in Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 94 S.Ct. 1347, 39 L.Ed.2d 662 (1974). There we applied 150 the Eleventh Amendment to retroactive grants of welfare benefits and discussed the proper standard for a waiver of this immunity by a State. On the latter issue we stated that "we will find waiver only where stated 'by the most express language or by such overwhelming implications from the text as [will] leave no room for any other reasonable construction.' " Id., at 673, 94 S.Ct., at 1361, quoting Murray v. Wilson Distilling Co., 213 U.S. 151, 171, 29 S.Ct. 458, 464, 53 L.Ed. 742 (1909). We added that the "mere fact that a State participates in a program through which the Federal Government provides assistance for the operation by the State of a system of public aid is not sufficient to establish consent on the part of the State to be sued in the federal courts." 415 U.S., at 673, 94 S.Ct., at 1361.

The holding below, finding a waiver in this case, cannot be reconciled with the principles set out in Edelman. As the Court of Appeals recognized, the State's general waiver of sovereign immunity for the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services "does not constitute a waiver by the state of its constitutional immunity under the Eleventh Amendment from suit in federal court." 616 F.2d, at 1363. See Smith v. Reeves, 178 U.S. 436, 441, 20 S.Ct. 919, 921, 44 L.Ed. 1140 (1900). And the fact that the Department agreed explicitly to obey federal law in administering the program can hardly be deemed an express waiver of Eleventh Amendment immunity. This agreement merely stated a customary condition for any participation in a federal program by the State, and Edelman already established that neither such participation in itself, nor a concomitant agreement to obey federal law, is sufficient to waive the protection of the Eleventh Amendment.3 415 U.S., at 673-674, 94 S.Ct., at 1360-1361.

We therefore reverse the decision below.

It is so ordered.

Justice BRENNAN, dissenting.

I dissent and would affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals. This suit is brought by Florida citizens against Florida officials. In that circumstance I am of the view, expressed in dissent in Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 687, 94 S.Ct. 1347, 1367, 39 L.Ed.2d 662 (1974), that Florida "may not invoke the Eleventh Amendment, since that Amendment bars only federal court suits against States by citizens of other States."

Justice MARSHALL dissents and would affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals, substantially for the reasons stated in his dissent in Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 688, 94 S.Ct. 1347, 1368, 39 L.Ed.2d 662 (1974).

Justice BLACKMUN also dissents and would affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals substantially for the reasons stated in Justice MARSHALL'S dissent in Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 688, 94 S.Ct. 1347, 1368, 39 L.Ed.2d 662 (1974).

Justice STEVENS, concurring.

The decision of the Court of Appeals is in square conflict with this Court's holding in Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 94 S.Ct. 1347, 39 L.Ed.2d 662. Apparently recognizing this fact, respondents urge the Court to grant certiorari and hear argument on the question whether Edelman should be overruled.1 I find this question less easily answered than do my Brothers, all of whom were Members of the Court when Edelman was decided. Each has voted today consistently with his vote in Edelman itself.

The arguments in favor of overruling Edelman are appealing, particularly because I share the opinion of Justice BRENNAN, Justice MARSHALL, and Justice BLACKMUN that Edelman was incorrectly decided.2 I have previously relied- on rather slender grounds for distinguishing Edelman,3 when wiser judges might have forthrightly urged rejection of the precedent.4 And I joined the Court's decision to overrule Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492, insofar as it concerned the financial responsibility of municipal corporations. See Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 714, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2048, 56 L.Ed.2d 611, (STEVENS, J., concurring in part). Moreover, the reflections of some former Members of the Court on the doctrine of stare decisis suggest that they would not have hesitated to overrule a decision that stands as an impediment to providing an adequate remedy for citizens injured by their government. 5 Nevertheless, I find greater force in the countervailing arguments.

First, I would note that Edelman did not announce a rule of law fundamentally at odds with our current understanding of the scope of constitutionally protected civil rights,6 nor did it rest upon a discredited interpretation of the relevant historical documents.7 Rather, the rule of the Edelman case is of only limited significance and has been a part of our law for only a few years. Its limiting effect on the jurisdiction of federal courts is not so restrictive that Congress may not mitigate its impact by unambiguously conditioning state participation in federal programs on a waiver of the Eleventh Amendment defense. The Edelman rule represents an...

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