Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman Mayor of City of Philadelphia v. Halderman Pennsylvania Association For Retarded Citizens v. Pennhurst State School and Hospital Commissioners and Mental Health Mental Retardation Administrators For Bucks County v. Halderman Pennhurstassociation v. Halderman

Decision Date20 April 1981
Docket NumberPARENTS-STAFF,Nos. 79-1404,79-1414,79-1415 and 79-1489,79-1408,s. 79-1404
PartiesPENNHURST STATE SCHOOL AND HOSPITAL et al., Petitioners, v. Terri Lee HALDERMAN et al. MAYOR OF CITY OF PHILADELPHIA et al., Petitioners, v. Terri Lee HALDERMAN et al. PENNSYLVANIA ASSOCIATION FOR RETARDED CITIZENS et al., Petitioners, v. PENNHURST STATE SCHOOL AND HOSPITAL et al. COMMISSIONERS AND MENTAL HEALTH/MENTAL RETARDATION ADMINISTRATORS FOR BUCKS COUNTY et al., Petitioners, v. Terri Lee HALDERMAN et al. PENNHURSTASSOCIATION, Petitioner, v. Terri Lee HALDERMAN et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

The Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (Act) established a federal-state grant program whereby the Federal Government provides financial assistance to participating States to aid them in creating programs to care for and treat the developmentally disabled. The Act is voluntary, and the States are given the choice of complying with the conditions set forth in the Act or forgoing the benefits of federal funding. The "bill if rights" provision of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 6010(1) and (2), states that mentally retarded persons "have a right to appropriate treatment, services, and habilitation" in "the setting that is least restrictive of . . . personal liberity." Pennsylvania, a participating State, owns and operates Pennhurst State School and Hospital, a facility for the care, and treatment of the mentally retarded. Respondent Halderman, a retarded resident of Pennhurst, brought a class action in Federal District Court on behalf of herself and all other Pennhurst residents against Pennhurst and various officials responsible for its operation. It was alleged, inter alia, that conditions at Pennhurst were unsanitary, inhumane, and dangerous, and that such conditions denied the class members various specified constitutional and statutory rights, including rights under the Act, and, in addition to seeking injunctive and monetary relief, it was urged that Pennhurst be closed and that "community living arrangements" be established for its residents. The District Court found that certain of the claimed rights were violated, and granted the relief sought. The Court of Appeals substantially affirmed, but avoided the constitutional claims and instead held that § 6010 created substantive rights in favor of the mentally retarded, that mentally retarded persons have an implied cause of action to enforce those rights, and that the conditions at Pennhurst violated those rights.

The court further found that Congress enacted the Act pursuant to both § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment and the spending power.

Held: Section 6010 does not create in favor of the mentally retarded any substantive rights to "appropriate treatment" in the "least restrictive" environment. Pp. 11-32.

(a) The case for inferring congressional intent to create, pursuant to Congress' enacting power under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, enforceable rights and obligations is at its weakest where, as here, the rights asserted imposed affirmative obligations on the States to fund certain services, since it may be assumed that Congress will not implicitly attempt to impose massive financial obligations on the States. Unlike legislation enacted under § 5, however, legislation enacted pursuant to the spending power is much in the nature of a contract; in return for federal funds, the States agree to comply with federally imposed conditions. The legitimacy of Congress' power to legislate under the spending power thus rests on whether the State voluntarily and knowingly accepts the terms of the "contract," but if Congress intends to impose a condition on the grant of federal moneys, it must do so unambiguously. Pp. 15-18.

(b) applying the above principles to these cases, This court fInds nothing in the Act or its legislative history to suggest that Congress intended to require the States to assume the high cost of providing "appropriate treatment" in the "least restrictive" environment to their mentally retarded citizens. There is virtually no support for the Court of Appeals' conclusion that Congress created rights and obligations pursuant to its power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment. The Act nowhere states that that is its purpose, but to the contrary the Act's language and structure demonstrate that it is a mere federal-state funding statute. Section 6010, when read in the context of other more specific provisions of the Act, does no more than express a congressional preference for certain kinds of treatment. Far from requiring the States to fund newly declared individual rights, the Act has a systematic focus, seeking to improve care to individuals by encouraging better state planning, coordination, and demonstration projects. Pp. 18-22.

(c) There is no merit to the contention that Congress, acting pursuant to its spending power, conditioned the grant of federal funds on the State's agreeing to underwrite the obligations the Court of Appeals read into § 6010. As noted, the "findings" of § 6010, when viewed in the context of the more specific provisions of the Act, represent general statements of federal policy, not newly created legal duties. Moreover, the "plain language" of § 6010, as well as the administrative interpretation of the provision, also refutes such contention. Section 6010, in contrast to other provisions of the Act that clearly impose conditions, in no way suggests that the grant of federal funds is "conditioned" on a State's funding the rights described therein. Pp. 22-24.

(d) The rule of statutory construction that Congress must express clearly its intent to impose conditions on the grant of federal funds so that the States can knowingly decide whether or not to accept those funds, applies with greatest force where, as here, a State's potential obligations under the Act are largely indeterminate. The crucial inquiry here is not whether a State would knowingly undertake the obligation to provide "appropriate treatment" in the "least restrictive" setting, but whether Congress spoke so clearly that it can fairly be said that the State could make an informed choice. In this case, Congress fell well short of providing clear notice to the States that by accepting funds under the Act they would be obligated to comply with § 6010. Pp. 24-25.

(e) A comparison of the general language of § 6010 with the conditions Congress explicitly imposed on the States under the Act demonstrates that Congress did not intend to place either absolute or conditional obligations on the States under § 6010. Pp. 25-27.

(f) Questions not addressed by the Court of Appeals—as to whether individual mentally retarded persons may bring suit to compel compliance with those conditions that are contained in the Act, the federal constitutional claims, and claims under another federal statute—and issues as to whether state law imposed an obligation on Pennsylvania to provide treatment, are remanded for consideration or reconsideration, respectively, in light of the instant decision. Pp. 27-31.

612 F.2d 84, reversed and remanded.

Allen C. Warshaw, Harrisburg, Pa., for petitioners in No. 79-1404.

Thomas M. Kittredge, Philadelphia, Pa., for petitioners in Nos. 79-1408 and 79-1415.

Joel I. Klein, Washington, D. C., for petitioners in No. 79-1489.

David Ferleger, Philadelphia, Pa., for respondents Halderman et al.

Drew S. Days, III, Washington, D. C., for respondent United States.

Thomas K. Gilhool, Philadelphia, Pa., for respondent Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens.

[Amicus Curiae Information from pages 4-5 intentionally omitted] Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

At issue in these cases is the scope and meaning of the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 1975, 89 Stat. 486, is amended, 42 U.S.C. § 6000 et seq. (1976 ed. and Supp.III). The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that the Act created substantive rights in favor of the mentally retarded, that those rights were judicially enforceable, and that conditions at the Pennhurst State School and Hospital (Pennhurst), a facility for the care and treatment of the mentally retarded, violated those rights. For the reasons stated below, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and remand the cases for further proceedings.

I

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania owns and operates Pennhurst. Pennhurst is a large institution, housing approximately 1,200 residents. Seventy-five percent of the residents are either "severely" or "profoundly" retarded—that is, with an IQ of less than 35—and a number of the residents- are also physically handicapped. About half of its residents were committed there by court order and half by a parent or other guardian.

In 1974, respondent Terri Lee Halderman, a minor retarded resident of Pennhurst, filed suit in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of herself and all other Pennhurst residents against Pennhurst, its superintendent, and various officials of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania responsible for the operation of Pennhurst (hereafter petitioners). The additional respondents (hereinafter with respondent Halderman, referred to as respondents) in these cases other mentally retarded persons, the United States, and the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens (PARC)—subsequently intervened as plaintiffs. PARC added several surrounding counties as defendants, alleging that they were responsible for the commitment of persons to Pennhurst.

As amended in 1975, the complaint alleged, inter alia, that conditions at Pennhurst were unsanitary, inhumane, and dangerous. Specifically, the complaint averred that these conditions denied the class members due process and equal protection of the law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, inflicted on them cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, and...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1248 cases
  • Olivia Y. ex rel. Johnson v. Barbour, No. CIV.A.3:04 CV 251LN.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Mississippi
    • November 18, 2004
    ...most family like setting" is amorphous and not subject to precise definition); cf. Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 451 U.S. 1, 25, 101 S.Ct. 1531, 1544, 67 L.Ed.2d 694 (1981)(remarking that "[i]t is difficult to know what is meant by `appropriate treatment' in the `least r......
  • Knussman v. State of Md., Civil No. B-95-1255.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • August 2, 1996
    ...v. National Sea Clammers Assn., 453 U.S. 1, 19, 101 S.Ct. 2615, 2625-26, 69 L.Ed.2d 435 (1981); Pennhurst State School & Hospital v. Halderman, 451 U.S. 1, 101 S.Ct. 1531, 67 L.Ed.2d 694 (1981); Smith v. Kirk, 821 F.2d 980, 982 (4th The instant case turns on the first exception — whether th......
  • Connecticut v. Spellings
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
    • September 27, 2006
    ...of Educ. v. Murphy, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 126 S.Ct.. 2455, 2459, 165 L.Ed.2d 526 (2006) (citing Pennhurst State School and Hosp. v. Halderman, 451 U.S. 1, 17, 101 S.Ct. 1531, 67 L.Ed.2d 694 (1981)). Noting that "[l]egislation enacted pursuant to the spending power is much in the nature of a co......
  • CONSORTIUM OF COM. BASED ORGANIZATIONS v. Donovan
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
    • January 11, 1982
    ...See Maine v. Thiboutot, supra at 22, n.11, 100 S.Ct. at 2513, n.11 (J. Powell, dissenting); Pennhurst State School v. Halderman, 451 U.S. 1, 27, 101 S.Ct. 1531, 1545, 67 L.Ed.2d 694, 714 (1981). Whether this possible exception to the now established rule exists need not be addressed29 in th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 firm's commentaries
28 books & journal articles
  • The use of (section) 1983 as a remedy for violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: why it is necessary and what it really means.
    • United States
    • Albany Law Review Vol. 72 No. 2, March 2009
    • March 22, 2009
    ...funding provisions provide no basis for private enforcement by [section] 1983.") (quoting Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 451 U.S. 1, 17, 28 n.21 (60) See Golden State Transit Corp. v. City of Los Angeles, 493 U.S. 103, 108 n.4 (1989) ("[A] claim based on a statutory violatio......
  • Addressing the problem: the judicial branches
    • United States
    • Environmental justice: legal theory and practice - second edition
    • May 23, 2012
    ...nonfederal state actors generally) are inconsistent with the clear statement rule of Pennhurst State School & Hospital v. Halderman , 451 U.S. 1 (1981). See Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Educ. , 526 U.S. 629, 656-57, 684-85 (1999) ( Kennedy , J., dissenting). . . . . Justice Stevens, with w......
  • Overcoming immunity: the case of federal regulation of intellectual property.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 53 No. 5, May 2001
    • May 1, 2001
    ...32 IND. L. REV. 11 (1998). But see notes 157-158 infra. (143.) See 483 U.S. at 207 (citing Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 451 U.S. 1, 17 & n.13 (144.) See id. (145.) See id. (citing Halderman, 451 U.S. at 17). (146.) See id. at 208. (147.) See, e.g., Buckley v. Valeo, 42......
  • RLUIPA at four: evaluating the success and constitutionality of RLUIPA'S prisoner provisions.
    • United States
    • Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy Vol. 28 No. 2, March 2005
    • March 22, 2005
    ...F.3d 1214, 1232 (11th Cir. 2004) (noting "least restrictive means" as part of strict scrutiny test, both before and after Smith). (399.) 451 U.S. 1 (400.) Mayweathers, 314 F.3d at 1067 (quoting Pennhurst, 451 U.S. at 24-25 (emphasis added). (401.) Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Educ., 526 U.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT