Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections v. Yeskey
524 U.S. 206 (1998)

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OCTOBER TERM, 1997

Syllabus

PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS ET AL. v. YESKEY

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

No. 97-634. Argued April 28, 1998-Decided June 15, 1998

Respondent Yeskey was sentenced to 18 to 36 months in a Pennsylvania correctional facility, but was recommended for placement in a Motivational Boot Camp for first-time offenders, the successful completion of which would have led to his parole in just six months. When he was refused admission because of his medical history of hypertension, he sued petitioners, Pennsylvania's Department of Corrections and several officials, alleging that the exclusion violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), Title II of which prohibits a "public entity" from discriminating against a "qualified individual with a disability" on account of that disability, 42 U. S. C. § 12132. The District Court dismissed for failure to state a claim, holding the ADA inapplicable to state prison inmates, but the Third Circuit reversed.

Held: State prisons fall squarely within Title II's statutory definition of "public entity," which includes "any ... instrumentality of a State ... or local government." § 12131(1)(B). Unlike the situation that obtained in Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U. S. 452, there is no ambiguous exception that renders the coverage uncertain. For that reason the plain-statement requirement articulated in Gregory, if applicable to federal intrusion upon the administration of state prisons, has been met. Petitioners' attempts to derive an intent not to cover prisons from the statutory references to the "benefits" of programs and to "qualified individual" are rejected; some prison programs, such as this one, have benefits and are restricted to qualified inmates. The statute's lack of ambiguity also requires rejection of petitioners' appeal to the doctrine of constitutional doubt. The Court does not address the issue whether applying the ADA to state prisons is a constitutional exercise of Congress's power under either the Commerce Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment because it was addressed by neither of the lower courts. pp. 208-213.

118 F.3d 168, affirmed.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.


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Paul A. Tufano argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs was Syndi L. Guido.

Donald Specter argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Eve H. Cervantez and Arlene B. Mayerson.

Irving L. Gornstein argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance. On the brief were Solicitor General Waxman, Acting Assistant Attorney General Lee, Deputy Solicitor General Underwood, Paul R. Q. Wolfson, Jessica Dunsay Silver, Linda F. Thome, and Seth M. Galanter. *

*Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the State of Nevada et al. by Frankie Sue Del Papa, Attorney General of Nevada, and Anne B. Cathcart, Senior Deputy Attorney General, Betty D. Montgomery, Attorney General of Ohio, Jeffrey S. Sutton, State Solicitor, and Elise Porter and Todd R. Marti, Assistant Attorneys General, John M. Ferren, Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia, and Gus F. Diaz, Acting Attorney General of Guam, and by the Attorneys General for their respective jurisdictions as follows: William H. Pryor, Jr., of Alabama, Grant Woods of Arizona, Winston Bryant of Arkansas, Daniel E. Lungren of California, Gale A. Norton of Colorado, Robert A. Butterworth of Florida, Thurbert E. Baker of Georgia, Margery S. Bronster of Hawaii, Alan G. Lance of Idaho, Thomas J. Miller of Iowa, Carla J. Stovall of Kansas, Richard P. Ieyoub of Louisiana, J. Joseph Curran, Jr., of Maryland, Frank J. Kelley of Michigan, Mike Moore of Mississippi, Joseph P. Mazurek of Montana, Don Stenberg of Nebraska, Philip T. McLaughlin of New Hampshire, Peter Verniero of New Jersey, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Dennis C. Vacco of New York, Michael F. Easley of North Carolina, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Jeffrey B. Pine of Rhode Island, Charles Molony Condon of South Carolina, Mark W Barnett of South Dakota, John Knox Walkup of Tennessee, Dan Morales of Texas, Jan Graham of Utah, Mark L. Earley of Virginia, Julio A. Brady of the Virgin Islands, and William U. Hill of Wyoming; for the Council of State Governments et al. by Richard Ruda and James I. Crowley; for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation by Kent S. Scheidegger; and for the Republican Caucus of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by John P. Krill, Jr., and David R. Fine.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems et al. by Steven J. Schwartz, James R. Pingeon, and Stephen F. Hanlon; and for the N a-


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