Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals

PETITIONER: Daniel Coleman
RESPONDENT: Court of Appeals of Maryland
LOCATION: Court of Appeals of Maryland

DOCKET NO.: 10-1016
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2010-2016)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 566 US (2012)
GRANTED: Jun 27, 2011
ARGUED: Jan 11, 2012
DECIDED: Mar 20, 2012

ADVOCATES:
John B. Howard Jr. - for the respondents
Michael L. Foreman - for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Former Maryland Court of Appeals employee Daniel Coleman filed a lawsuit under the self-care provision of the Family and Medical Leave Act, alleging that he was fired after requesting sick leave for a documented medical condition. The lower court dismissed Coleman's claim and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the claim was properly dismissed because his employer is a state agency.

Question

Did Congress constitutionally abrogate states' Eleventh Amendment immunity when it passed the self-care leave provision of the Family and Medical Leave Act?

Media for Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 20, 2012 (Part 2) in Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 11, 2012 in Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 20, 2012 (Part 1) in Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals

Anthony M. Kennedy:

The second case is Coleman versus Court of Appeals of Maryland, Number 10-1016.

This case is Coleman versus Court of Appeals of Maryland, the -- and this opinion announces the judgment of the Court.

The case concerns whether a state employee may recover damages from the State under a federal statute if the State does not offer that employee leave for self-care reasons as required by that federal statute.

Petitioner David Coleman requested sick leave from his employer, the Maryland Court of Appeals.

That entity is an instrumentality of the State of Maryland.

It denied his request.

Coleman then sued the State entity for violating the FMLA and that is the federal statute entitled the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

As part of the FMLA, Congress required states to offer up to 12 weeks of leave for specific unremunerated reasons.

These reasons include among others the birth of a son or daughter, or to care for a sick family member or to care for one's self.

In the Nevada versus Hibbs, this Court held Congress had validly abrogated the States' immunity from suit for damages where the State does not permit an employee to take leave to care for a sick family member.

In this case the District Court and the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in a holding consistent with every other Court of Appeals that have addressed this issue held that Congress had not abrogated the States' immunity from suits for damages where a State does not permit an employee to leave for self-care purposes.

Today we affirm that opinion.

Unlike the family leave policies at issue in Hibbs, there is no similar pattern of documented State discrimination in the administration of self-care or sick leave policies.

At the time of the FL -- FMLA's enactment over 96% of the states had sick leave policies.

There is little indication these policies granted women and men unequal amounts of leave whether these policies did not permit women to take leave for pregnancy-related illnesses, because the self-care provision did not respond to a well-documented pattern of constitutional violations on the part of the states and because the provision is not congruent and proportional to any identified pattern of constitutional violations, the self-care provision is not a valid abrogation of the States' immunity from suit for damages nor is there much to support petitioner's theory that the self-care provision is necessary to make the family-care provisions work.

That the provision offers some women a benefit does not sustain it.

Congress may not subject to suits the States, to suits for damages for a comprehensive regulatory scheme without demonstrating how the entire regulatory scheme is congruent and proportional to an identified pattern of constitutional violations.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

Justice Thomas has filed a concurring opinion.

Justice Scalia has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

Justice Ginsburg has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Breyer, Sotamayor, and Kagan join.

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