Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Ctr., Inc., 575 U.S. ___ (2015)
Providers of “habilitation services” under Idaho’s Medicaid plan are reimbursed by the state Department of Health and Welfare. Section 30(A) of the Medicaid Act requires Idaho’s plan to “assure that payments are consistent with efficiency, economy, and quality of care” while “safeguard[ing] against unnecessary utilization of . . . care and services,” 42 U.S.C. 1396a(a)(30)(A). Providers of habilitation services claimed that Idaho reimbursed them at rates lower than section 30(A) permits. The district court entered summary judgment for the providers. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Supremacy Clause gave the providers an implied right of action, under which they could seek an injunction requiring compliance. The Supreme Court reversed, concluding that there is no private right of action. The Supremacy Clause instructs courts to give federal law priority when state and federal law clash, but it is not the source of any federal rights and does not create a cause of action. The suit cannot proceed in equity. The power of federal courts of equity to enjoin unlawful executive action is subject to express and implied statutory limitations. The express provision of a single remedy for a state’s failure to comply with Medicaid’s requirements, the withholding of Medicaid funds by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, 42 U.S.C. 1396c, and the complexity associated with enforcing section 30(A) combine to establish Congress’s “intent to foreclose” equitable relief.
No implied private right of action can be inferred from the Supremacy Clause, since it does not create any federal rights, and the equitable power of federal courts to enjoin executive actions may be expressly and implicitly constrained by Congress.
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321 .
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
ARMSTRONG et al. v. EXCEPTIONAL CHILD CENTER, INC., et al.
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit
No. 14–15. Argued January 20, 2015—Decided March 31, 2015
Providers of “habilitation services” under Idaho’s Medicaid plan are reimbursed by the State’s Department of Health and Welfare. Section 30(A) of the Medicaid Act requires Idaho’s plan to “assure that payments are consistent with efficiency, economy, and quality of care” while “safeguard[ing] against unnecessary utilization of . . . care and services.” 42 U. S. C. §1396a(a)(30)(A). Respondents, providers of habilitation services, sued petitioners, Idaho Health and Welfare Department officials, claiming that Idaho reimbursed them at rates lower than §30(A) permits, and seeking to enjoin petitioners to increase these rates. The District Court entered summary judgment for the providers. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Supremacy Clause gave the providers an implied right of action, and that they could sue under this implied right of action to seek an injunction requiring Idaho to comply with §30(a).
Held: The judgment is reversed.
567 Fed. Appx. 496, reversed.
Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part IV, concluding that the Supremacy Clause does not confer a private right of action, and that Medicaid providers cannot sue for an injunction requiring compliance with §30(a). Pp. 3–10.
(a) The Supremacy Clause instructs courts to give federal law priority when state and federal law clash. Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 210. But it is not the “ ‘source of any federal rights,’ ” Golden State Transit Corp. v. Los Angeles, 493 U. S. 103 , and certainly does not create a cause of action. Nothing in the Clause’s text suggests otherwise, and nothing suggests it was ever understood as conferring a private right of action. Article I vests Congress with broad discretion over the manner of implementing its enumerated powers. Art I., §8; McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 421. It is unlikely that the Constitution gave Congress broad discretion with regard to the enactment of laws, while simultaneously limiting Congress’s power over the manner of their implementation, making it impossible to leave the enforcement of federal law to federal actors. Pp. 3–5.
(b) Reading the Supremacy Clause not to confer a private right of action is consistent with this Court’s preemption jurisprudence. The ability to sue to enjoin unconstitutional actions by state and federal officers is the creation of courts of equity, and reflects a long history of judicial review of illegal executive action, tracing back to England. This Court has never held nor suggested that this judge-made remedy, in its application to state officers, rests upon an implied right of action contained in the Supremacy Clause. Pp. 5–6.
(c) Respondents’ suit cannot proceed in equity. The power of federal courts of equity to enjoin unlawful executive action is subject to express and implied statutory limitations. See, e.g., Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U. S. 44 . Here, the express provision of a single remedy for a State’s failure to comply with Medicaid’s requirements—the withholding of Medicaid funds by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, 42 U. S. C. §1396c—and the sheer complexity associated with enforcing §30(A) combine to establish Congress’s “intent to foreclose” equitable relief, Verizon Md. Inc. v. Public Serv. Comm’n of Md., 535 U. S. 635 . Pp. 6–10.
Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III, in which Roberts, C. J., and Thomas, Breyer, and Alito, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Part IV, in which Roberts, C. J., and Thomas and Alito, JJ., joined. Breyer, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Sotomayor, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Kagan, JJ., joined.
Suits in federal court to restrain state officials from executing laws that assertedly conflict with the Constitution or with a federal statue are not novel. To the contrary, this Court has adjudicated such requests for equitable relief since the early days of the Republic. Nevertheless, today the Court holds that Congress has foreclosed private parties from invoking the equitable powers of the federal courts to require States to comply with §30(A) of the Medicaid Act,42 U. S. C. §1396a(a)(30)(A). It does so without pointing to the sort of detailed remedial scheme we have previously deemed necessary to establish congressional intent to preclude resort to equity. Instead, the Court relies on Congress’ provision for agency enforcement of §30(A)—an enforcement mechanism of the sort we have already definitively determined not to foreclose private actions—and on the mere fact that §30(A) contains relatively broad language. As I cannot agree that these statutory provisions demonstrate the requisite congressional intent to restrict the equitable authority of the federal courts, I respectfully dissent. I A That parties may call upon the federal courts to enjoin unconstitutional government action is not subject to serious dispute. Perhaps the most famous exposition of this principle is our decision in Ex parte Young,209 U. S. 123 (1908), from which the doctrine derives its usual name. There, we held that the shareholders of a railroad could seek an injunction preventing the Minnesota attorney general from enforcing a state law setting maximum railroad rates because the Eleventh Amendment did not provide the officials with immunity from such an action and the federal court had the “power” in equity to “grant a temporary injunction.” Id., at 148. This Court had earlier recognized similar equitable authority in Osborn v. Bank of United States, 9 Wheat. 738 (1824), in which a federal court issued an injunction prohibiting an Ohio official from executing a state law taxing the Bank of the United States. Id., at 838–839. We affirmed in relevant part, concluding that the case was “cognizable in a Court of equity,” and holding it to be “proper” to grant equitable relief insofar as the state tax was “repugnant” to the federal law creating the national bank. Id., at 839, 859. More recently, we confirmed the vitality of this doctrine in Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Bd.,561 U. S. 477 (2010). There, we found no support for the argument that a challenge to “ ‘governmental action under the Appointments Clause or separation-of-powers principles’ ” should be treated “differently than every other constitutional claim” for which “equitable relief ‘has long been recognized as the proper means for preventing entities from acting unconstitutionally.’ ” Id., at 491, n. 2. A suit, like this one, that seeks relief against state officials acting pursuant to a state law allegedly preempted by a federal statute falls comfortably within this doc-trine. A claim that a state law contravenes a federal statute is “basically constitutional in nature, deriving its force from the operation of the Supremacy Clause,” Douglas v. Seacoast Products, Inc.,431 U. S. 265–272 (1977), and the application of preempted state law is therefore “unconstitutional,” Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council,530 U. S. 363,388 (2000); accord, e.g., McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 436 (1819) (that States have “no power” to enact laws interfering with “the operations of the constitutional laws enacted by Congress” is the “unavoidable consequence of that supremacy which the constitution has declared”; such a state law “is unconstitutional and void”). We have thus long entertained suits in which a party seeks prospective equitable protection from an injurious and preempted state law without regard to whether the federal statute at issue itself provided a right to bring an action. See, e.g., Foster v. Love,522 U. S. 67 (1997) (state election law that permitted the winner of a state primary to be deemed the winner of election to Congress held preempted by federal statute setting date of congressional elections); Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc.,463 U. S. 85 (1983) (state law preempted in part by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974); Railroad Transfer Service, Inc. v. Chicago,386 U. S. 351 (1967) (city ordinance imposing licensing requirements on motor carrier transporting railroad passengers held preempted by federal Interstate Commerce Act); Campbell v. Hussey,368 U. S. 297 (1961) (state law requiring labeling of certain strains of tobacco held preempted by the federal Tobacco Inspection Act); Railway Co. v. McShane, 22 Wall. 444 (1875) (state taxation of land possessed by railroad company held invalid under federal Act of July 2, 1864). Indeed, for this reason, we have characterized “the availability of prospective relief of the sort awarded in Ex parte Young” as giving “life to the Supremacy Clause.” Green v. Mansour,474 U. S. 64 (1985). Thus, even though the Court is correct that it is somewhat misleading to speak of “an implied right of action contained in the Supremacy Clause,” ante, at 6, that does not mean that parties may not enforce the Supremacy Clause by bringing suit to enjoin preempted state action. As the Court also recognizes, we “have long held that federal courts may in some circumstances grant injunctive relief against state officers who are violating, or planning to violate, federal law.” Ante, at 5. B Most important for purposes of this case is not the mere existence of this equitable authority, but the fact that it is exceedingly well established—supported, as the Court puts it, by a “long history.” Ante, at 6. Congress may, if it so chooses, either expressly or implicitly preclude Ex parte Young enforcement actions with respect to a particular statute or category of lawsuit. See, e.g., 28 U. S. C. §1341 (prohibiting federal judicial restraints on the collection of state taxes); Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida,517 U. S. 44–76 (1996) (comprehensive alternative remedial scheme can establish Congress’ intent to foreclose Ex parte Young actions). But because Congress is undoubtedly aware of the federal courts’ long-established practice of enjoining preempted state action, it should generally be presumed to contemplate such enforcement unless it affirmatively manifests a contrary intent. “Unless a statute in so many words, or by a necessary and inescapable inference, restricts the court’s jurisdiction in equity, the full scope of that jurisdiction is to be recognized and applied.” Porter v. Warner Holding Co.,328 U. S. 395,398 (1946). In this respect, equitable preemption actions differ from suits brought by plaintiffs invoking42 U. S. C. §1983 or an implied right of action to enforce a federal statute. Suits for “redress designed to halt or prevent the constitutional violation rather than the award of money damages” seek “traditional forms of relief.” United States v. Stanley,483 U. S. 669,683 (1987). By contrast, a plaintiff invoking §1983 or an implied statutory cause of action may seek a variety of remedies—including damages—from a potentially broad range of parties. Rather than simply pointing to background equitable principles authorizing the action that Congress presumably has not overridden, such a plaintiff must demonstrate specific congressional intent to create a statutory right to these remedies. See Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe,536 U. S. 273,290 (2002); Alexander v. Sandoval,532 U. S. 275,286 (2001); see also Golden State Transit Corp. v. Los Angeles,493 U. S. 103,114 (1989) (Kennedy, J., dissenting) (Because a preemption claim does not seek to enforce a statutory right, “[t]he injured party does not need §1983 to vest in him a right to assert that an attempted exercise of jurisdiction or control violates the proper distribution of powers within the federal system”). For these reasons, the principles that we have developed to determine whether a statute creates an implied right of action, or is enforceable through §1983, are not transferable to the Ex parte Young context. II In concluding that Congress has “implicitly preclude[d] private enforcement of §30(A),” ante, at 6, the Court ignores this critical distinction and threatens the vitality of our Ex parte Young jurisprudence. The Court identifies only a single prior decision—Seminole Tribe—in which we have ever discerned such congressional intent to foreclose equitable enforcement of a statutory mandate. Ante, at 6. Even the most cursory review of that decision reveals how far afield it is from this case. In Seminole Tribe, the plaintiff Indian Tribe had invoked Ex parte Young in seeking to compel the State of Florida to “negotiate in good faith with [the] tribe toward the formation of a compact” governing certain gaming activities, as required by a provision of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act,25 U. S. C. §2710(d)(3). 517 U. S., at 47. We rejected this effort, observing that “Congress passed §2710(d)(3) in conjunction with the carefully crafted and intricate remedial scheme set forth in §2710(d)(7).” Id., at 73–74. That latter provision allowed a tribe to sue for violations of the duty to negotiate 180 days after requesting such negotiations, but specifically limited the remedy that a court could grant to “an order directing the State and the Indian tribe to conclude a compact within 60 days,” and provided that the only sanction for the violation of such an order would be to require the parties to “sub-mit a proposed compact to a mediator.” Id., at 74; §§2710(d)(7)(B)(i), (iii), (iv). The statute further directed that if the State should fail to abide by the mediator’s selected compact, the sole remedy would be for the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the tribe, to prescribe regulations governing gaming. See 517 U. S., at 74–75; §2710(d)(7)(B)(vii). We concluded that Congress must have intended this procedural route to be the exclusive means of enforcing §2710(d)(3). As we explained: “If §2710(d)(3) could be enforced in a suit under Ex parte Young, §2710(d)(7) would have been superfluous; it is difficult to see why an Indian tribe would suffer through the intricate scheme of §2710(d)(7) when more complete and more immediate relief would be available under Ex parte Young.” 517 U. S., at 75. What is the equivalent “carefully crafted and intricate remedial scheme” for enforcement of §30(A)? The Court relies on two aspects of the Medicaid Act, but, whether considered separately or in combination, neither suffices. First, the Court cites42 U. S. C. §1396c, which authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to withhold federal Medicaid payments to a State in whole or in part if the Secretary determines that the State has failed to comply with the obligations set out in §1396a, including §30(A). See ante, at 7–8. But in striking contrast to the remedial provision set out in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, §1396c provides no specific procedure that parties actually affected by a State’s violation of its statutory obligations may invoke in lieu of Ex parte Young—leaving them without any other avenue for seeking relief from the State. Nor will §1396c always provide a particularly effective means for redressing a State’s violations: If the State has violated §30(A) by refusing to reimburse medical providers at a level “sufficient to enlist enough providers so that care and services are available” to Medicaid beneficiaries to the same extent as they are available to “the general population,” agency action resulting in a reduced flow of federal funds to that State will often be self-defeating. §1396a(30)(A); see Brief for Former HHS Officials as Amici Curiae 18 (noting that HHS is often reluctant to initiate compliance actions because a “state’s non-compliance creates a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t scenario where the withholding of state funds will lead to depriving the poor of essential medical assistance”). Far from rendering §1396c “superfluous,” then, Ex parte Young actions would seem to be an anticipated and possibly necessary supplement to this limited agency-enforcement mechanism. Seminole Tribe, 517 U. S., at 75. Indeed, presumably for these reasons, we recently rejected the very contention the Court now accepts, holding that “[t]he fact that the Federal Government can exercise oversight of a federal spending program and even withhold or withdraw funds . . . does not demonstrate that Congress has displayed an intent not to provide the more complete and more immediate relief that would otherwise be available under Ex parte Young.” Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy v. Stewart,563 U. S. 247, ____–____, n. 3 (2011) (slip op., at 7–8, n. 3) (internal quotation marks omitted). Section 1396c also parallels other provisions scattered throughout the Social Security Act that likewise authorize the withholding of federal funds to States that fail to fulfill their obligations. See, e.g., §§609(a), 1204, 1354. Yet, we have consistently authorized judicial enforcement of the Act. See Maine v. Thiboutot,448 U. S. 1,6 (1980) (collecting cases). Rosado v. Wyman,397 U. S. 397 (1970), provides a fitting illustration. There, we considered a provision of the Social Security Act mandating that, in calculating benefits for participants in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program, States make adjustments “ ‘to reflect fully changes in living costs.’ ” Id., at 412 (quoting §602(a)(23) (1964 ed., Supp. IV)). We expressed no hesitation in concluding that federal courts could require compliance with this obligation, explaining: “It is . . . peculiarly part of the duty of this tribunal, no less in the welfare field than in other areas of the law, to resolve disputes as to whether federal funds allocated to the States are being expended in consonance with the conditions that Congress has attached to their use.” Id., at 422–423. We so held notwithstanding the existence of an enforcement provision permitting a federal agency to “make a total or partial cutoff of federal funds.” See id., at 406, n. 8 (citing §1316). Second, perhaps attempting to reconcile its treatment of §1396c (2012 ed.) with this longstanding precedent, the Court focuses on the particular language of §30(A), contending that this provision, at least, is so “judicially unadministrable” that Congress must have intended to preclude its enforcement in private suits. Ante, at 7. Admittedly, the standard set out in §30(A) is fairly broad, requiring that a state Medicaid plan: “provide such methods and procedures relating to the utilization of, and the payment for, care and services available under the plan . . . as may be necessary to safeguard against unnecessary utilization of such care and services and to assure that payments are consistent with efficiency, economy, and quality of care and are sufficient to enlist enough providers so that care and services are available under the plan at least to the extent that such care and services are available to the general population in the geographic area.” §1396a(a)(30)(A). But mere breadth of statutory language does not require the Court to give up all hope of judicial enforcement—or, more important, to infer that Congress must have done so. In fact, the contention that §30(A)’s language was intended to foreclose private enforcement actions entirely is difficult to square with the provision’s history. The spe-cific equal access mandate invoked by the plaintiffs in this case—that reimbursement rates be “sufficient to enlist enough providers so that care and services are available under the plan at least to the extent that such care and services are available to the general population in the geographic area”—was added to §30(A) in 1989.103Stat.2260. At that time, multiple Federal Courts of Appeals had held that the so-called Boren Amendment to the Medicaid Act was enforceable pursuant to §1983—as we soon thereafter concluded it was. See Wilder v. Virginia Hospital Assn.,496 U. S. 498–505, 524 (1990). The Boren Amendment employed language quite similar to that used in §30(A), requiring that a state plan: “provide . . . for payment . . . of the hospital services, nursing facility services, and services in an intermediate care facility for the mentally retarded provided under the plan through the use of rates . . . which the State finds, and makes assurances satisfactory to the Secretary, are reasonable and adequate to meet the costs which must be incurred by efficiently and economically operated facilities in order to provide care and services in conformity with applicable State and Federal laws, regulations, and quality and safety standards and to assure that individuals eligible for medical assistance have reasonable access . . . to in-patient hospital services of adequate quality.” §1396a(a)(13)(A) (1982 ed., Supp. V). It is hard to believe that the Congress that enacted the operative version of §30(A) could have failed to anticipate that it might be similarly enforceable. Even if, as the Court observes, the question whether the Boren Amendment was enforceable under §1983 was “unsettled at the time,” ante, at 10 (emphasis deleted), surely Congress would have spoken with far more clarity had it actually intended to preclude private enforcement of §30(A) through not just §1983 but also Ex parte Young. Of course, the broad scope of §30(A)’s language is not irrelevant. But rather than compelling the conclusion that the provision is wholly unenforceable by private parties, its breadth counsels in favor of interpreting §30(A) to provide substantial leeway to States, so that only in rare and extreme circumstances could a State actually be held to violate its mandate. The provision’s scope may also often require a court to rely on HHS, which is “comparatively expert in the statute’s subject matter.” Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern Cal., Inc., 565 U. S ___, ___ (2012) (slip op., at 7). When the agency has made a determination with respect to what legal standard should apply, or the validity of a State’s procedures for implementing its Medicaid plan, that determination should be accorded the appropriate deference. See, e.g., Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.,467 U. S. 837 (1984); Skidmore v. Swift & Co.,323 U. S. 134 (1944). And if faced with a question that presents a special demand for agency expertise, a court might call for the views of the agency, or refer the question to the agency under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction. See Rosado, 397 U. S., at 406–407; Pharmaceutical Research and Mfrs. of America v. Walsh,538 U. S. 644,673 (2003) (Breyer, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment). Finally, because the authority invoked for enforcing §30(A) is equitable in nature, a plaintiff is not entitled to relief as of right, but only in the sound discretion of the court. See Amoco Production Co. v. Gambell,480 U. S. 531,542 (1987). Given the courts’ ability to both respect States’ legitimate choices and defer to the federal agency when necessary, I see no basis for presuming that Congress believed the Judiciary to be completely incapable of enforcing §30(A).* * * * In sum, far from identifying a “carefully crafted . . . remedial scheme” demonstrating that Congress intended to foreclose Ex parte Young enforcement of §30(A), Seminole Tribe, 517 U. S., at 73–74, the Court points only to two provisions. The first is §1396c, an agency-enforcement provision that, given our precedent, cannot preclude private actions. The second is §30(A) itself, which, while perhaps broad, cannot be understood to mani-fest congressional intent to preclude judicial involvement. The Court’s error today has very real consequences. Previously, a State that set reimbursement rates so low that providers were unwilling to furnish a covered service for those who need it could be compelled by those affected to respect the obligation imposed by §30(A). Now, it must suffice that a federal agency, with many programs to oversee, has authority to address such violations through the drastic and often counterproductive measure of withholding the funds that pay for such services. Because a faithful application of our precedents would have led to a contrary result, I respectfully dissent.