United States v. Georgia
Annotate this Case
546 U.S. 151 (2006)
OCTOBER TERM, 2005
UNITED STATES V. GEORGIA
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
UNITED STATES v. GEORGIA et al.
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eleventh circuit
No. 04–1203. Argued November 9, 2005—Decided January 10, 2006
Goodman, petitioner in No. 04–1236, is a paraplegic who sued respondent state defendants and others, challenging the conditions of his confinement in a Georgia prison under, inter alia, 42 U. S. C. §1983 and Title II of the Americans with Disability Act of 1990. As relevant here, the Federal District Court dismissed the §1983 claims because Goodman’s allegations were vague, and granted respondents summary judgment on the Title II money damages claims because they were barred by state sovereign immunity. The United States, petitioner in No. 04–1203, intervened on appeal. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the District Court’s judgment as to the Title II claims, but reversed the §1983 ruling, finding that Goodman had alleged facts sufficient to support a limited number of Eighth Amendment claims against state agents and should be permitted to amend his complaint. This Court granted certiorari to decide the validity of Title II’s abrogation of state sovereign immunity.
Held: Insofar as Title II creates a private cause of action for damages against States for conduct that actually violates the Fourteenth Amendment, Title II validly abrogates state sovereign immunity. Pp. 5–8.
(a) Because this Court assumes that the Eleventh Circuit correctly held that Goodman had alleged actual Eighth Amendment violations for purposes of §1983, and because respondents do not dispute Goodman’s claim that this same conduct violated Title II, Goodman’s Title II money damages claims were evidently based, at least in part, on conduct that independently violated §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment. No one doubts that §5 grants Congress the power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment’s provisions by creating private remedies against the States for actual violations of those provisions. This includes the power to abrogate state sovereign immunity by authorizing private suits for damages against the States. Thus, the Eleventh Circuit erred in dismissing those of Goodman’s claims based on conduct that violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 5–7.
(b) Once Goodman’s complaint is amended, the lower courts will be best situated to determine in the first instance, on a claim-by-claim basis, (1) which aspects of the State’s alleged conduct violated Title II; (2) to what extent such misconduct also violated the Fourteenth Amendment; and (3) insofar as such conduct violated Title II but did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment, whether Congress’s purported abrogation of sovereign immunity in such contexts is nevertheless valid. Pp. 7–8.
120 Fed. Appx. 785, reversed and remanded.
Scalia, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. Stevens, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Ginsburg, J., joined.
Together with No. 04–1236, Goodman v. Georgia et al., also on certiorari to the same court.