United States v. State, No. 17-13595

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
Citation938 F.3d 1221
Docket NumberNo. 17-13595
Parties UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellants, v. State of FLORIDA, Defendant-Appellees.
Decision Date17 September 2019

938 F.3d 1221

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellants,
v.
State of FLORIDA, Defendant-Appellees.

No. 17-13595

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

September 17, 2019


938 F.3d 1224

Table of Contents

ANALYSIS...1225

I. An Overview of Title II of the ADA...1226

II. The Remedial Structure of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act....1229

A. Title VI Enforcement Regulations Contemplate Department of Justice Enforcement Suits....1230

B. Enforcing Title VI: Any Other Means Authorized By Law...1231

III. Section 505 of the Rehabilitation Act....1233

A. Rehabilitation Act Enforcement Regulations Tracked Title VI Regulations...1234

B. Department of Justice Enforcement of the Rehabilitation Act...1236

IV. Enforcement of Title II of the ADA...1238

A. Title II Enforcement Regulations Follow Regulations Promulgated Under the Rehabilitation Act and Title VI...1238

B. Title II of the ADA Permits Department of Justice Enforcement...1241

C. The Legislative History of Title II Supports the Attorney General’s Authority to File Suit...1245

D. The Department of Justice Has Filed Suit to Enforce Title II...1246

E. Federalism Principles Do Not Alter Our Conclusion....1249

CONCLUSION...1250

In September 2012, after completing a six-month investigation, the Department of Justice issued a Letter of Findings notifying Florida that it was failing to meet its obligations under Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA") and its implementing regulations, by "unnecessarily institutionalizing hundreds of children with disabilities in nursing facilities." The Department of Justice also asserted

938 F.3d 1225

that Florida’s Medicaid policies and practices placed other children who have "medically complex"1 conditions, or who are "medically fragile,"2 at risk of unnecessary institutionalization.

The Department of Justice negotiated with Florida to attempt to resolve the violations identified in the Letter of Findings. After concluding that it could not obtain voluntary compliance, the Department of Justice filed suit in the Southern District of Florida in July 2013, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief under Title II of the ADA and 28 C.F.R. § 35.130(d).

In December 2013, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(a), the district court consolidated the Department of Justice’s suit with a previously-filed class-action complaint from a group of children who similarly alleged that Florida’s policies caused, or put them at risk of, unnecessary institutionalization and unlawful segregation on the basis of disability. See A.R. v. Sec’y Fla. Agency for Health Care Admin. , 769 F. App'x 718 (11th Cir. 2019).

Shortly before the consolidation, Florida filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, asserting that Title II of the ADA did not authorize the Attorney General to file suit. The district court denied Florida’s motion, concluding that the Department of Justice had reasonably interpreted Title II and had the authority to file suit to enforce Title II. See A.R. v. Dudek , 31 F. Supp. 3d 1363, 1367 (S.D. Fla. 2014).

In 2016, the district court sua sponte revisited the issue3 and dismissed the Department of Justice’s case because it concluded that the Attorney General lacked standing to sue under Title II of the ADA. See C.V. v. Dudek , 209 F. Supp. 3d 1279, 1282 (S.D. Fla. 2016). After further litigation, the district court dismissed the children’s case. This appeal followed.

ANALYSIS

This case requires us to determine whether the Attorney General has a cause of action to enforce Title II of the ADA. This is a purely legal question, requiring statutory interpretation. Therefore, the proper standard of review is de novo .

938 F.3d 1226

Stansell v. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia , 704 F.3d 910, 914 (11th Cir. 2013).

I. An Overview of Title II of the ADA

The ADA was intended to "provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities," and establish strong, enforceable standards to achieve that goal. 42 U.S.C. § 12101(b)(1)–(2). Congress envisioned that, through the ADA, the Federal Government would take "a central role in enforcing the standards established in this chapter on behalf of individuals with disabilities," and invoked "the sweep of congressional authority, including the power to enforce the [F]ourteenth [A]mendment and to regulate commerce" to "address the major areas of discrimination faced day-to-day by people with disabilities." Id. (b)(3)–(4). See also United States v. Georgia , 546 U.S. 151, 154, 126 S.Ct. 877, 163 L.Ed.2d 650 (2006).

Part A of Title II, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131 – 12134, addresses public services provided by public entities. A "public entity" means "any State or local government," or "any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a State or States or local government ...." 42 U.S.C. § 12131(1)(A)–(B). Title II prohibits discrimination based on disability, specifically, "[s]ubject to the provisions of this subchapter, no qualified individual with a disability shall, 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." 42 U.S.C. § 12132. The term "qualified individual with a disability" means:

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, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or the participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity.

42 U.S.C. § 12131(2).

Title II’s enforcement provision states that "[t]he remedies, procedures, and rights set forth in section 794a of Title 29 shall be the remedies, procedures, and rights this subchapter provides to any person alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of section 12132 of this title." 42 U.S.C. § 12133. Congress directed the Attorney General to "promulgate regulations in an accessible format that implement [Title II]." 42 U.S.C. § 12134(a). Such regulations, with the exception of specifically-identified terms,

shall be consistent with this chapter and with the coordination regulations under part 41 of title 28, Code of Federal Regulations (as promulgated by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare on January 13, 1978), applicable to recipients of Federal financial assistance under section 794 of Title 29.

Id. (b).

It is undisputed that Title II permits a private cause of action for injunctive relief or money damages. Fry v. Napoleon Cmty. Schs. , ––– U.S. ––––, 137 S. Ct. 743, 750, 197 L.Ed.2d 46 (2017). We must determine whether Title II’s enforcement scheme, 42 U.S.C. § 12133, permits the Attorney General to bring an enforcement action.4 The starting point is the language of the statute.

938 F.3d 1227

United States Dep’t of Transp. v. Paralyzed Veterans of Am. , 477 U.S. 597, 604, 106 S.Ct. 2705, 91 L.Ed.2d 494 (1986). If the words of the statute are unambiguous, then we may conclude the inquiry there. Connecticut Nat’l Bank v. Germain , 503 U.S. 249, 254, 112 S.Ct. 1146, 117 L.Ed.2d 391 (1992).

Through a series of cross-references, the enforcement mechanism for Title II of the ADA is ultimately Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. See 42 U.S.C. § 12133 ; 29 U.S.C. § 794a ; 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-1. Section 12133 of Title II states that the "remedies, procedures, and rights" available to a person alleging discrimination are those available in § 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794a. Section 505 contains a provision for enforcing § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 794(a) ; 794a. In relevant part, § 505 states that:

The remedies, procedures, and rights set forth in title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ( 42 U.S.C. 2000d et seq. ) (and in subsection (e)(3) of section 706 of such Act ( 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5 ), applied to claims of discrimination in compensation) shall be available to any person aggrieved by any act or failure to act by any recipient of Federal assistance or Federal provider of such assistance under section 794 of this title.

29 U.S.C. § 794a(a)(2).

Like § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, § 601 of Title VI of the Civil Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination, exclusion, or denial of benefits—in that statutory scheme, on the basis of race, color, or national origin—by "any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." 42 U.S.C. § 2000d.

Section 602 of Title VI requires the various federal departments and agencies that provide federal financial assistance to "effectuate" § 601 by "issuing rules, regulations, or orders of general...

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3 practice notes
  • Ruckh v. Salus Rehab., LLC, No. 18-10500
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • June 25, 2020
    ...read a mandatory dismissal rule into the statute for failure to comply with the statute's seal requirement); United States v. Florida , 938 F.3d 1221, 1253 (11th Cir. 2019) ("It is not our function to engraft on a statute additions which we think the legislature logically might or should ha......
  • United States v. Sec'y Fla. Agency for Health Care Admin., 17-13595
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • December 22, 2021
    ...sue Florida, on behalf of the medically-fragile children, under Title II for disability discrimination. See United States v. Florida, 938 F.3d 1221, 1250 (11th Cir. 2019). In his dissental, [2] Judge Newsom advances an interpretation of Title II that would disallow suits by the Attorney Gen......
  • United States v. Sec'y Fla. Agency for Health Care Admin., 17-13595
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • December 22, 2021
    ...sue Florida, on behalf of the medically-fragile children, under Title II for disability discrimination. See United States v. Florida , 938 F.3d 1221, 1250 (11th Cir. 2019).In his dissental,2 Judge Newsom advances an interpretation of Title II that would disallow suits by the Attorney Genera......
3 cases
  • Ruckh v. Salus Rehab., LLC, No. 18-10500
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • June 25, 2020
    ...read a mandatory dismissal rule into the statute for failure to comply with the statute's seal requirement); United States v. Florida , 938 F.3d 1221, 1253 (11th Cir. 2019) ("It is not our function to engraft on a statute additions which we think the legislature logically might or should ha......
  • United States v. Sec'y Fla. Agency for Health Care Admin., 17-13595
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • December 22, 2021
    ...sue Florida, on behalf of the medically-fragile children, under Title II for disability discrimination. See United States v. Florida, 938 F.3d 1221, 1250 (11th Cir. 2019). In his dissental, [2] Judge Newsom advances an interpretation of Title II that would disallow suits by the Attorney Gen......
  • United States v. Sec'y Fla. Agency for Health Care Admin., 17-13595
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • December 22, 2021
    ...sue Florida, on behalf of the medically-fragile children, under Title II for disability discrimination. See United States v. Florida , 938 F.3d 1221, 1250 (11th Cir. 2019).In his dissental,2 Judge Newsom advances an interpretation of Title II that would disallow suits by the Attorney Genera......

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