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U.S. Supreme Court

Cannon v. University of Chicago, 441 U.S. 677 (1979)

Cannon v. University of Chicago

No. 77-926.

Argued January 9, 1979

Decided May 14, 1979

441 U.S. 677


Section 901(a) of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) provides in part that

"[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

Petitioner instituted litigation in Federal District Court, alleging that she had been excluded from participation in the medical education programs of respondent private universities on the basis of her gender and that these programs were receiving federal financial assistance at the time of her exclusion. The District Court granted respondents' motions to dismiss the complaints, since Title IX does not expressly authorize a private right of action by a person injured by a violation of § 901, and since the court concluded that no private remedy should be inferred. The Court of Appeals agreed that the statute did not contain an implied private remedy. It concluded, inter alia, that Congress intended the remedy in § 902 of Title IX, establishing a procedure for the termination of federal financial support for institutions that violated § 901, to be the exclusive means of enforcement, and that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, upon which Title IX was patterned, did not include an implied private cause of action.

Held: Petitioner may maintain her lawsuit, despite the absence of any express authorization for it in Title IX. Pp. 441 U. S. 688-717.

(a) Before concluding that Congress intended to make a remedy available to a special class of litigants, a court must carefully analyze the following four factors that Cort v. Ash, 422 U. S. 66, identifies as indicative of such an intent: (1) whether the statute was enacted for the benefit of a special class of which the plaintiff is a member, (2) whether there is any indication of legislative intent to create a private remedy, (3) whether implication of such a remedy is consistent with the underlying purposes of the legislative scheme, and (4) whether implying a federal remedy is inappropriate because the subject matter involves an area basically of concern to the States. P. 441 U. S. 688.

(b) The first factor is satisfied here since Title IX explicitly confers a benefit on persons discriminated against on the basis of sex, and petitioner

Page 441 U. S. 678

is clearly a member of that class for whose special benefit the statute was enacted. Pp. 441 U. S. 689-694.

(c) As to the second factor, the legislative history of Title IX rather plainly indicates that Congress intended to create a private cause of action. Title IX was patterned after Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the drafters of Title IX explicitly assumed that it would be interpreted and enforced in the same manner as Title VI, which had already been construed by lower federal courts as creating a private remedy when Title IX was enacted. Pp. 441 U. S. 694-703.

(d) The third factor is satisfied, since implication of a private remedy will not frustrate the underlying purposes of the legislative scheme but, instead, will assist in achieving the statutory purpose of providing individual citizens effective protection against discriminatory practices. Pp. 441 U. S. 703-708.

(e) As to the fourth factor, since the Civil War, the Federal Government and the federal courts have been the primary and powerful reliances in protecting citizens against invidious discrimination of any sort, including that on the basis of sex. Moreover, it is the expenditure of federal funds that provides the justification for this particular statutory prohibition. Pp. 441 U. S. 708-709.

(f) Respondents' principal argument against implying a cause of action under Title IX -- that it is unwise to subject admissions decisions of universities to judicial scrutiny at the behest of disappointed applicants on a case-by-case basis because this kind of litigation is burdensome, and inevitably will have an adverse effect on the independence of members of university committees -- is without merit. The congressional majorities that passed Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX rejected the same argument when advanced by the congressional opponents of the two statutes, and there is nothing to demonstrate that private Title VI litigation has been so costly or voluminous that either the academic community or the courts have been unduly burdened, or that university administrators will be so concerned about the risk of litigation that they will fail to discharge their important responsibilities in an independent and professional manner. Pp. 441 U. S. 709-710.

(g) Nor is there any merit to respondents' arguments, starting from the premise that Title IX and Title VI should receive the same construction, that a comparison of Title VI with other titles of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 demonstrates that Congress created express private remedies whenever it found them desirable, and that certain excerpts from the legislative history of Title VI foreclose the implication of a private remedy. The fact that other provisions of a complex statutory scheme create express remedies has not been accepted as a sufficient

Page 441 U. S. 679

reason, by itself, for refusing to imply an otherwise appropriate remedy under a separate section, and none of the excerpts from the legislative history cited by respondents evidences any hostility toward an implied private remedy for terminating the offending discrimination. Pp. 441 U. S. 710-716.

559 F.2d 1063, reversed and remanded.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, STEWART, MARSHALL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which STEWART, J., joined, post, p. 441 U. S. 717. BURGER, C.J., concurred in the judgment. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 441 U. S. 718. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 441 U. S. 730.

Page 441 U. S. 680

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