ADA: Supreme Court Justices Split on Disabilities Act
In the latest in a string of Supreme Court cases "paring down" Congress' legislative authority, nine "divided" justices debated yesterday whether the Constitution allows citizens to sue state governments for employment discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the AP/Baltimore Sun reports. After a one-hour, "deeply probing" review, the judges remained inconclusive on the case, Alabama v. Garrett, in which Alabama claims the ADA is "unconstitutional in allowing disabled individuals to sue state governments for violations of the act." Alabama's lawyer, Jeffrey Sutton, said the ADA was "so broad" that it provided a "'constitutional amendment' for the disabled, who are given no explicit protection in the constitution." Two lawsuits have been brought against the state of Alabama, one by an employee of the University of Alabama, Patricia Garrett, who was demoted to a lower-ranking position after taking a leave of absence for breast cancer treatments. The second lawsuit comes from Milton Ash, an Alabama youth detention facility guard, who was urged to quit by his supervisor because he was suffering from chronic asthma. Georgetown University law professor Michael Gottesman, representing the plaintiffs, said Congress has amassed a "great deal" of evidence that "state government officials had engaged in 'widespread, pervasive' discrimination against the disabled." However, Sutton argued that instead of "actually enforcing the Constitution's guarantee of equality for all," the ADA "sought to crack down on state government even when Congress had no hard evidence that the states were mistreating the disabled." Sutton was "strenuously" challenged by Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, whose votes "often turn out to be crucial when the other justices are split." The court is expected to come to a decision by late next spring (Denniston, AP/Baltimore Sun, 10/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.