FOURTH CIRCUIT RULES THAT 11th AMENDMENT DOESN’T SHIELD STATE UNIVERSITY FROM ADA, REHABILITATION ACT CLAIMS
The trouble with discriminating against upperclassmen in law school is that you have already educated your victim in how to sue you.
The Fourth Circuit rules today (June 13) that a law student can sue a public university for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, as well as for First Amendment retaliation claims. The unanimous panel decision comes in Constantine v. George Mason Univ.
The court holds that the ADA specifically applies to the states, despite the Eleventh Amendment’s prohibition of suits against states. (The court has recently ruled that the University of Maryland, as a state agency, is not a citizen of a state for removal purposes; this finding would probably extrapolate to an immunity ruling in an appropriate case.) This is because the Act contains a specific provision withdrawing the usual immunity for such suits. Similarly, Rehabilitation Act claims are not barred, as the university accepted federal funds, a condition of which is an agreement to waive 11th Amendment immunity for such claims.
The decision is made at a very early stage of the case — the district court had granted the defendants’ Rule 12(b)(6) motion — so this victory, while legally significant, does not yet herald an ultimate win for the plaintiff. In particular, the appellate court admonishes the district court to consider individual defendants’ qualified immunity defenses “as soon as practicable on remand.” Slip op. at 38, n. 19.