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PJC Appellate Victory: State Universities Not Immune from Disability Discrimination

On July 7, 2006, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit issued a decision that holding that state universities cannot claim they have “sovereign immunity” from federal laws that prohibit discrimination against the disabled, in the case of Toledo v. Sanchez-Rivera.  This was a victory for the Public Justice Center and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, which submitted a friend of the court brief signed onto by 24 other disability rights organizations.
The PJC’s brief supports Ivan Toledo, a first year student at the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Architecture.  After missing classes due to a disability, the University refused to provide reasonable accommodations to him to complete the assignments, as required by federal Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The federal District Court dismissed the case, holding that Congress did not intend to override Puerto Rico’s sovereign immunity when it enacted Title II of the ADA.  Toledo appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals,
The First Circuit’s opinion accepted – in accordance with PJC’s brief – that Congress acted based on a sufficient history of discrimination in the area of public education and that public education institutions have an obligation to comply with Title II of the ADA.
This is a victory in the ongoing federalism versus states’ rights debate that has resulted in the roll back of many federal civil rights. The amicus brief was authored by Francis D. Murnaghan Appellate Advocacy Fellow Roscoe Jones, Jr. and Appellate Director Suzanne Sangree, along with Jennifer Mathis of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.
Click here to read the court's decision.
Click here to read the PJC's amicus brief.

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