September 3, 2003
The Honorable Phil Bredesen
Governor of the State of Tennessee
Tennessee State Capitol
Nashville, TN 37243
RE: Tennessee v. Lane
Dear Governor Bredesen:
On behalf of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the largest cross-disability national membership organization in the country, I write on behalf of our more than 55,000 members to urge you to ask the Attorney General to drop his appeal in Tennessee v. Lane. At issue here is whether Congress had the constitutional authority to require states to pay money damages for violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
If the Lane case moves forward and Tennessee prevails, the decision will harm millions of disabled citizens across the country. If provisions of Title II are struck down as being inapplicable to the State of Tennessee under the Lane case, the net effect will be summarily to diminish plaintiff's rights to sue for money damages in court for discriminatory policies, practices, and procedures that prevent people with disabilities from enjoying equality of opportunity to participate meaningfully and effectively in programs and services offered by state and local governments. This would be true, whether the person with a disability resides in Tennessee, Alaska, Hawaii, California, Minnesota, New York, or any other state in the Union.
The U.S. Supreme Court (as it is currently constituted) has made clear how it tends to favor states' rights, even to the detriment of individuals whose fundamental liberties were violated. It has already struck down the ability of state employees to sue for punitive damages under Title I of the ADA. We have good reason to fear that the current Supreme Court will use the Lane case to strike down yet another part of the ADA, and we cannot afford to roll the dice when something as fundamental as access to justice is at stake.
Last term, disability advocates successfully persuaded the Governor and Attorney General of California to withdraw their appeal in Hason v. California Medical Board, another case challenging the constitutionality of Title II of the ADA. In the Garrett v. University of Alabama case, fourteen state attorneys general argued in support of the ADA's constitutionality, whereas only seven states weighed in on the side of Alabama. Please work with your Attorney General to withdraw the Lane appeal, and recognize that certain rights are so fundamental that they appropriately deserve enforceable federal protection under the U.S. Constitution.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. If you have any questions, I can be reached at 202 457-0046.
Andrew J. Imparato, President and CEO