The Constitutional Status of the ADA: An Examination of Alsbrook V. City of Maumelle in Light of Recent Supreme Court Decisions concerning the 11th Amendment

By Sutor, Sarah E.; Hamilton, Susan Elizabeth Grant | The Review of Litigation, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

The Constitutional Status of the ADA: An Examination of Alsbrook V. City of Maumelle in Light of Recent Supreme Court Decisions concerning the 11th Amendment


Sutor, Sarah E., Hamilton, Susan Elizabeth Grant, The Review of Litigation


I. Introduction

The 11 th Amendment protects state actors from suit in federal court by their own citizens or citizens of other states.1 Congress, however, can pass statutes that nullify 11th Amendment immunity under certain circumstances, making state actors vulnerable to suit in federal court.2 This power to nullify, or abrogate, state immunity has been limited by the courts in order to maintain the fundamental constitutional balance of power between the federal government and the states.3 In this regard, if a court determines that Congress did not properly abrogate l lth Amendment immunity in enacting a particular statute, a plaintiff cannot sue a state entity under that statute in federal court.4 In addition, because a state must first consent to suit in its own courts,5 a state can effectively bar all suits brought against it under a federal statute if that statute is deemed to be an unconstitutional exercise of congressional power.6

The Supreme Court has reaffirmed these limits on Congress's ability to abrogate states' 11th Amendment immunity.7 Most recently, in Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents,8 the Court held that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)9 is unconstitutional as applied to state actors.10 The Supreme Court focused its decision on whether Congress was validly exercising its power to enforce the equal protection guarantees of the 14th Amendment when it enacted the statute, such that the immunity of the states from suit in federal courts could be negated.11 The Kimmel reasoning has sparked a nationwide debate about whether the numerous persons employed by state entities will be able to sue their employers under other federal discrimination statutes.12

For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)13 is vulnerable to constitutional attack because it protects a non-suspect class, like the ADEA, and it places significant affirmative obligations upon employers to make accommodations on behalf of disabled persons.14 The fact that providing these accommodations may be very expensive makes the constitutionality of the ADA very significant to state actors. State employees also have an important stake in this debate because not all states have a statute that parallels the ADA. Thus, if the ADA is deemed unconstitutional as applied to state actors, some state employees may be left with a decreased remedy or no remedy at all for disability discrimination. Although most circuit courts that have addressed this issue have determined that the ADA is constitutional,15 the Supreme Court is likely to reach an opposite conclusion.16

The Supreme Court will likely address this issue in the near future, and when it does, its decision would most likely minor that of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in Alsbrook v. City of Maumelle,17 which held that the ADA is unconstitutional as applied to state actors.18 In dismissing a disability discrimination claim against the state of Arkansas and one of its agencies, the court held that Title II19 of the ADA was not a proper exercise of Congress's enforcement power under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment.20 Thus, the court concluded that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the ADA claim because there was not a valid nullification of the State of Arkansas' 11 th Amendment immunity from suit in federal court.21

This Article analyzes the Alsbrook decision in light of the Supreme Court's recent decisions and addresses whether the Alsbrook court correctly determined that the ADA is unconstitutional as applied to state actors. Section II provides a brief background of the ADA and sets forth the manner in which the ADA differs from other anti-discrimination statutes that protect suspect classes. Section III reviews the 8th Circuit's opinion in Alsbrook v. City of Maumelle. The final section analyzes the Alsbrook opinion and the various constitutional issues raised by it, concluding that there is a sound basis for the 8th Circuit's holding that the ADA is unconstitutional as applied to state actors.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Constitutional Status of the ADA: An Examination of Alsbrook V. City of Maumelle in Light of Recent Supreme Court Decisions concerning the 11th Amendment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.