HLD, v. 31, n. 7
Seventh Circuit Holds Disabled State
Residents Had Standing To Bring Action Against State Officials
Several Illinois residents (plaintiffs) who are developmentally
disabled sued state officials, in their official capacity, for alleged violations
of the federal Medicaid statute, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA). The district court dismissed the Medicaid claim and
the Rehabilitation Act claim on the ground the plaintiffs lacked standing. The
district court also dismissed the ADA claim based on the holding in Walker
v. Snyder, 213 F.3d 344 (7th Cir. 2000), that only a state and not its officials
can be sued for a violation of the ADA, and a state is immune from suit under
the Eleventh Amendment. Plaintiffs appealed.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, and vacated and remanded
in part, the district court's judgment. Plaintiffs first argued that the state
officials refused to write letters authorizing the addition of Intermediate
Care Facilities for the Developmentally Disabled (ICF/DDs) in the northern part
of the state, and the refusal violated the Medicaid statute, which directs that
medical assistance be provided to eligible individuals. Plaintiffs live at home
with their parents in the Chicago area, and the parents would prefer plaintiffs
live in ICF/DDs. However, most ICF/DDs are in the southern part of the state
far from Chicago, and plaintiffs wanted more ICF/DDs in the northern part of
the state. The appeals court explained that the district court's ruling that
none of the provisions of the Medicaid statute entitled plaintiffs to what they
were seeking and therefore they did not have standing because they were not
injured was a ruling on the merits and not on jurisdiction. The appeals court
determined that plaintiffs only sought a plan, which might create vacancies
in ICF/DDs near their homes, and the potential benefit to them from the relief
they sought was speculative, but was not so speculative as to negate standing.
Finding that plaintiffs had standing, the appeals court turned
to the merits of the Medicaid claim. Plaintiffs' claim fails, said the appeals
court, because the Medicaid statute is a payment scheme and does not require
the state to provide assistance through state hospitals. The Medicaid statute
merely requires a determination of eligibility and prompt payment of funds for
covered medical expenses. Plaintiffs had no right to require the state to provide
services within certain distances of their parents' homes. The appeals court
held that plaintiffs' Medicaid claim failed on the merits.
On the district court's determination that plaintiffs lacked standing
to sue under the Rehabilitation Act, the appeals court found that plaintiffs
clearly stated a claim under the Rehabilitation Act, but because the district
court failed to explain why it concluded the plaintiffs had no standing, that
part of the judgment had to be vacated and remanded.
On the issue of plaintiffs' claims against the state officials,
the appeals court explained that such a suit is against the state and, unless
the state consents to be sued, the suit is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.
However, there is an exception to state immunity in the Civil Rights Act of
1964 for suits based on violations of the Rehabilitation Act. The appeals court
also determined that there was no immunity for the ADA claim, and therefore,
the dismissal of the plaintiffs' claims on those issues had to be set aside.
Accordingly, the appeals court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded
in part the district court's judgment.
Bruggeman v. Blagojevich, No. 02-1730, 2003 WL 1793049 (7th
Cir. Apr. 7, 2003) (6 pages). h21