Supreme Court Agrees To Hear California Medical Board Case on Ability of Disabled To Sue States Under ADA
The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to hear an appeal from the Medical Board of California in a case that could determine whether state agencies are protected from lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Los Angeles Times reports. In the past, the court has ruled that disabled workers could not file suit against states under the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, because under the U.S. Constitution, states are considered "sovereign entities" and have "sovereign immunity" from such lawsuits. The medical board case will test the precedent and determine whether sovereign immunity applies to states accused of discrimination in the provision of public services (Savage, Los Angeles Times, 11/19). In the case, California resident Michael Hason in 1999 filed suit against the medical board over allegations that the board rejected his application for a license to practice medicine in the state because of his history of mental illness (Lane, Washington Post, 11/19). The medical board in 1995 rejected his application based on the recommendation of an independent medical examiner who determined that Hason "suffered from depression and drug dependency." In response, Hason sued the state under the ADA, arguing that the board has discriminated against him because of his disability. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed Hason's lawsuit, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reversed the decision (Greenberger, Wall Street Journal, 11/19). The appeals court ruled that although Hason may not have proven that he was a "qualified individual with a disability" who "suffered unfair discrimination," the state is not "immune from all such suits."
In response, Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) appealed the case to the Supreme Court (Los Angeles Times, 11/19). In the appeal, state attorneys said the appeals court decision conflicted with lower court decisions and that the "state's resistance to ADA suits would not put disabled people at a disadvantage because California law ensures that state ... services are accessible," USA Today reports (Biskupic, USA Today, 11/19). "This involves the right and duty of the state to regulate the licensing of physicians for the public safety," Joel Davis, a deputy state attorney, said, adding, "The federal courts should not be deciding who becomes a doctor or surgeon" (Los Angeles Times, 11/19).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.