LOCATION: Culpeper County Courthouse
DOCKET NO.: 82-862
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
CITATION: 465 US 624 (1984)
ARGUED: Nov 29, 1983
DECIDED: Feb 28, 1984
Harry A. Rissetto - on behalf of the Petitioner
Joseph P. Lenahan - on behalf of the Respondent
William Bradford Reynolds - on behalf of the United States as amicus curiae
Facts of the case
Media for Consolidated Rail Corporation v. Darrone
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 29, 1983 in Consolidated Rail Corporation v. Darrone
Warren E. Burger:
We will hear arguments next in Consolidated Rail Corporation against Lee Ann LeStrange Darrone, as Administrix of Estate of Thomas LeStrange.
Mr. Rissetto, I think you may proceed when you are ready.
Harry A. Rissetto:
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this case involves the application of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as it was amended to claims of employment discrimination on the basis of handicap.
I think it would be useful to briefly outline the essential facts that resulted in the petition for cert being granted and being petitioned in this case.
Mr. LeStrange was employed originally by the Erie Lackawanna Railroad in 1943 as an engine service employee.
He progressed from fireman to engineer, and in 1972... I'm sorry, 1971, as a result of a non-job related injury, Mr. LeStrange suffered the loss of his left hand and part of his left forearm.
He was subsequently disqualified from active employment on the Erie Lackawanna by the medical department of the Erie Lackawanna.
Shortly afterwards, the Erie Lackawanna sought the protection of the bankruptcy laws, and in 1976 the properties, the rail properties of the Erie Lackawanna were conveyed to ConRail.
In 1978, Mr. LeStrange was examined by a ConRail medical officer to determine whether he was qualified to be reinstated as a yard service engineer on ConRail, and he was rejected.
A complaint was filed under the Rehabilitation Act.
The district court granted ConRail's motion for summary judgment on that aspect of the complaint, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed.
The principal question in the case regards the scope of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
It is ConRail's position that Section 504 applies only when the primary objective of the federal assistance is to provide employment.
That interpretation is based primarily on the language of the statute, and it is... and then that interpretation has also been adopted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second, Fourth, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits.
Section 504 provides that no otherwise qualified handicapped individual as defined in Section 7067 of this title shall solely by reason of his handicap be excluded from the participation in and be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal assistance.
Section 504 as originally enacted had no enforcement procedures.
In 1978, the statute was amended by the addition of Section 505, which provided, and this is the critical language in the case, that the remedies, procedures, and rights set forth in Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act shall be available to any person aggrieved by any act or failure to act by any recipient of federal assistance or federal provider of such assistance under Section 794, which is Section 504 of this title.
Thus, the incorporation of the Title 6 remedies raises the principal issue in the case.
In incorporating Title 6, what rights, remedies, and procedures were incorporated and made applicable to actions under Section 504?
It is ConRail's interpretation of the statute that the rights, remedies, and procedures contained in Title 6 include the limitations and particular provisions set out in Section 604 of the statute.
Section 604 of Title 6 provides that nothing contained in this title shall be construed to authorize action under this title by any department or agency with respect to any employment practice of any employer, employment agency, or labor organization except where a primary objective of the federal financial assistance is to provide the employment.
Your opponents say that that wasn't discussed in Congress at any point.
Are they correct?
Harry A. Rissetto:
That is correct, Your Honor.
Our interpretation is based on the plain language of the statute.
There is very little legislative history on either side of the question, either with respect to the initial enactment of Section 503--
It is 3,000 pages.
Harry A. Rissetto:
--There are 3,000 pages in the Rehabilitation Act, and the Rehabilitation Act itself is a lengthy statute dealing with a myriad of vocational rehabilitation programs.
Section 504 appears in the miscellaneous section, and there is scarcely a snippet of legislative history that focuses on it.
Do you have any explanation why it wasn't even mentioned?