Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Eighth Circuit Rules Parking Placard Fee Violates ADA Title II

Yesterday, the Eighth Circuit issued its latest opinion in Klingler v. Missouri Department of Revenue. The case involves a challenge, under Title II of the ADA, to Missouri's annual charge of $2.00 for a disabled parking placard that can be moved from car to car. (A disabled license plate, which cannot be removed from the car, is free.) This is the third time the case has been before the Eighth Circuit. In its first opinion in the case, the court held that the Eleventh Amendment barred a money damages recovery but that an Ex parte Young suit could proceed for injunctive relief. On a subsequent appeal, the Eighth Circuit held that Congress lacked power under the Commerce Clause to ban the state's collection of the $2.00 annual fee, so the Ex parte Young suit could not proceed either. The Supreme Court then vacated and remanded for further consideration in light of Tennessee v. Lane and Gonzales v. Raich (the medical marijuana case from last Term). Yesterday's opinion announced the Eighth Circuits decision on remand.

Because the state had abandoned its constitutional challenge to the Ex parte Young aspect of the suit, the Eighth Circuit moved to the merits. Applying the principle that a state cannot charge people with disabilities a fee to pay for an accommodation required by the ADA, the court concluded that the $2.00 annual fee was just such an impermissible surcharge: "We think that a program is "required," as that word is used by the statute, if in fact it discharges an obligation imposed by the ADA. Missouri has elected to use parking placards to ensure that disabled people have access to government programs. Having made that decision, Missouri is prohibited from imposing a surcharge on disabled people for placards that are necessary to use reserved parking spaces." The court also noted that the placard program "also helps private entities meet their obligations under Title III to provide 'full and equal' accommodations to disabled persons." "Although the ADA and its implementing regulations do not require Missouri to police reserved spaces set aside by private businesses," the court concluded that "its decision to do so obligates it to provide the spaces free of charge."

The Eighth Circuit refused to reinstate the damages claim, however. It ruled, consistently with the court's earlier ruling in the Bill M. case, that Lane did not, outside of the access-to-courts context, displace Eighth Circuit precedent holding the abrogation of state sovereign immunity in ADA Title II to be invalid.


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