Sunday, January 22, 2006

employment - public - speech - retaliaton - sec. 1983 - qualified immunity

Springer v. Henry - Third Circuit - January 18, 2006

Lower court judgment under 42 USC 1983 affirmed for doctor who had been terminated from his job at a state hospital in retaliation for his criticism of the hospital administration (patient care and safety issues). Defendant's claim of qualified immunity rejected, since law prohibiting such termination was clear at the time.

Donald Marritz
MidPenn Legal Services

ADA - $ damages - immunity

U.S. v. Georgia , U.S. Supreme Court - January 10, 2006

Held, To the extent that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 USC 12131 et seq., creates a private cause of action for money damages against states for conduct that actually violates sec. 1 of the 14th Amendment, it validly abrogates the state's sovereign immunity. The case involved a prisoner who claimed that prison officials deliberately refused to accommodate his disability related needs.

The majority opinion focused on possible violations of the 8th Amendment, applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment. The majority noted a disagreement on the Court "regarding the scope of Congress's 'prophylactic' enforcement powers under sec. 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment," but held that "no one doubts that sec. 5 grants Congress the power to 'enforce...the provisions' of the Amendment by creating private remedies against the States for actual violations of those provisions." (emphasis in original)

The concurring opinion of Justice Stevens emphasized that other constitutional rights may also be applicable in the disabled prisoner context, including the right of access to courts (Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509 (2004)), abridgement of religious liberties, undue censorship, interference with access to the judicial process, and procedural due process. Justice Stevens also noted that "the state defendants have correctly chosen not to challenge the Eleventh Circuit's holding that Title II is constitutional insofar as it authorizes prospective injunctive relief against the State."

Donald Marritz
MidPenn Legal Services