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Atascadero State Hosp. v. Scanlon, 473 U.S. 234 (1985)

Atascadero State Hosp. v. Scanlon

No. 84-351

Argued March 25, 1985

Decided June 28, 1985

473 U.S. 234


Respondent, who suffers from diabetes and has no sight in one eye, brought an action in Federal District Court against petitioners, alleging that petitioner California State Hospital denied him employment because of his physical handicap, in violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and seeking compensatory, injunctive, and declaratory relief. Section 504 provides that no handicapped person shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be subjected to discrimination under any program receiving federal financial assistance under the Act. Section 505(a) makes available to any person aggrieved by any act of any recipient of federal assistance under the Act the remedies for employment discrimination set forth in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The District Court granted petitioners' motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that respondent's claims were barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Ultimately, after initially affirming on other grounds and upon remand from this Court, the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Eleventh Amendment did not bar the action because the State by receiving funds under the Act had implicitly consented to be sued as a recipient under § 504.

Held: Respondent's action is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment. Pp. 473 U. S. 237-247.

(a) Article III, § 5, of the California Constitution, which provides that "[s]uits may be brought against the State in such manner and in such courts as shall be directed by law" does not constitute a waiver of the State's Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit in federal court. In order for a state statute or constitutional provision to constitute such a waiver, it must specify the State's intent to subject itself to suit in federal court. Article III, § 5, does not specifically indicate the State's willingness to be sued in federal court, but appears simply to authorize the legislature to waive the State's sovereign immunity. P. 473 U. S. 241.

(b) The Rehabilitation Act does not abrogate the Eleventh Amendment bar to suits against the States. Congress must express its intention to abrogate the Eleventh Amendment in unmistakable language in the statute itself. Here, the general authorization for suit in federal court is not the kind of unequivocal statutory language sufficient to abrogate the Eleventh Amendment. Pp. 473 U. S. 242-246.

Page 473 U. S. 235

(c) The State's acceptance of funds and participation in programs funded under the Rehabilitation Act are insufficient to establish that it consented to suit in federal court. The Act falls far short of manifesting a clear intention to condition participation in programs under the Act on a State's consent to waive its constitutional immunity. Pp. 473 U. S. 246-247.

735 F.2d 359, reversed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 473 U. S. 247. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 473 U. S. 302. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 473 U. S. 304.

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