Wednesday, September 28, 2005

EDNY: Lane Doesn't Extend to Post-Secondary Education

In Press v. State Univ. of N.Y. at Stonybrook, 2005 WL 2360050 (E.D.N.Y., Sept. 27, 2005), Judge Spatt of the Eastern District of New York held that Title II does not validly abrogate state sovereign immunity in cases involving public higher education. Here is the crucial language:

The Court notes that the Fourth and Eleventh Circuits have extended Lane to cases involving access to education. See Constantine v. Rectors and Visitors of George Mason Univ., et al., 411 F.3d 474, 490 (4th Cir.2005); Assoc. for Disabled Amer., Inc. v. Florida Inter. Univ., 405 F.3f 954, 959 (11th Cir.2005); But see Pace v. Bogalusa City School Bd., 403 F.3d 272, 287 (5th Cir.2005) (declining to address whether the holding in Lane extends to disability discrimination in access to public education.). Those courts held that even though the constitutional right to equality in education is not a fundamental right and is only subject to rational basis review, given the importance of education, relief under Title II is proportional and congruent to the alleged injury. Id.

The Court does not question the importance of equal access to education. See Brown v. Board of Educ., 347 U.S. 483, 493, 74 S. Ct 686, 691, 98 L.Ed. 873 (1954).("[E]ducation is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments."). However, this Court is unwilling to expand the scope of Title II and encroach on the state's immunity with respect to a non-fundamental right such as access to post-secondary education that is subject only to rational review. See Roe, 334 F.Supp.2d at 423 ("In contrast to the situation confronted in Lane, the application of Title II to [applicants to a state bar], like Title I's general prohibition of employment discrimination, does not enforce basic constitutional guarantees whose violation would trigger a higher standard of judicial review"; see also Cochran, 401 F.3d at 193 (3d Cir.2005) (declining to extend Lane to Title II claims by disabled prison inmates).


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