More MS news articles for May 2000

Campaign to Save the ADA

For more info please contact:
Mark Johnson

The Supreme Court has decided to hear another disability discrimination case -- Garrett v. University of Alabama -- that calls into question the constitutionality of the ADA.  Oral argument most likely will occur in October, and the Court should issue its decision in early 2001.

Garrett is actually two consolidated employment discrimination cases filed against the state of Alabama -- one involving a woman with breast cancer, the other involving a man with severe asthma.  At issue in the Supreme Court case is whether Congress had the constitutional authority under the Fourteenth Amendment to enact the ADA. If the Supreme Court says Congress did not, individuals may no longer be able to enforce Titles I and II of the ADA against the states. More importantly, a negative ruling could call into question altogether the constitutionality of Title II of the ADA, as well as other disability rights statutes.

Garrett is the latest in a series of cases in which states have challenged Congress' power to enact legislation regulating state conduct.

Most recently, the Supreme Court held in Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents that Congress did not have the authority to apply the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to the states. The Court found that the substantive requirements of the ADEA are "disproportionate to any unconstitutional conduct that conceivably could be targeted by the Act" and that extension of the ADEA to the states was an "unwarranted response to a perhaps inconsequential problem." In Garrett, states will be urging the Supreme Court to reach the same conclusion about the ADA.

What does this mean for people with disabilities? It means that, as early as January, 2001, individuals may no longer be able to sue state entities for violations of the ADA.  Depending on the scope of the Supreme Court's ruling:

While Garrett only addresses the applicability of the ADA to the states, a bad decision could lead to the Court striking down parts of the ADA altogether in subsequent cases.

People with disabilities worked too long and too hard to enact the ADA, only to see it succumb to a "states' rights" argument. As they did in Olmstead v. L.C., and as they started to do in Alsbrook and Dickson, disability rights advocates can make a difference.  Some states will undoubtedly be filing a brief with the Supreme Court, urging the Court to find that the ADA does not apply to them. Others, lead by the state of Minnesota, will be filing a brief in support of the ADA.  Here's what you can do to help make sure your state takes the right position:

For more info please contact:
Mark Johnson

Fred Fay
Chair, Justice For All