Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy v. Stewart - Oral Argument - December 01, 2010

Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy v. Stewart

Media for Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy v. Stewart

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 19, 2011 in Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy v. Stewart

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 01, 2010 in Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy v. Stewart

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We will hear argument next in Case 09-529, the Virginia Office For Protection and Advocacy v. Stewart.

Mr. Galanter.

Seth M. Galanter:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The Virginia Office For Protection And Advocacy, known as VOPA> ["], seeks to enforce its Federal statutory right to inspect and copy records that are in possession of State officials who run State-operated hospitals.

Respondents acknowledged below that if Petitioner were a private entity, Ex parte Young would permit this suit.

VOPA's status as a State entity does not change the Ex parte Young analysis because it imposed neither a greater burden on the treasury nor the dignity of the State.

The only issue to be resolved by the Federal court is who has the correct reading of Federal law about the records access issue.


John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Counsel, if this were a private suit, let's say Ford Motor Company has two subsidiaries, Ford East and Ford West, they get into a dispute.

Ford West sues Ford East.

No Federal court would entertain that action, would it?

Seth M. Galanter:

--Well, Your Honor, if I could clarify.

First of all, there would have to be a question of Federal law.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:


They think -- Ford West thinks Ford East is discriminating on the basis of race.

Seth M. Galanter:

It would have to--

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

That adversely affects their reputation, too, so they sue them.

Seth M. Galanter:

--I think that inquiry goes to the question of adversity and standing, the Article III question.

And this case doesn't involve that because VOPA is independent of the entity--

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

It's independent -- it is independent from what?

Seth M. Galanter:

--It's independent from the executive branch.

It's independent from the Respondents it's trying to sue.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Yes, but is it independent from the State?

Is that what the statute says?

Seth M. Galanter:

The statute requires independence.

The Federal statute requires that VOPA be independent.

But it's independent here because its commission, only a third of it is appointed by the governor and none of the members of the commission that run VOPA can be removed except for cause.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

You say on page 27 of your brief, the blue brief, that there is no big deal here with respect to State sovereignty because ultimately the sovereign retains the authority to dissolve the State agency plaintiff if the State believes the litigation is too onerous.

Seth M. Galanter:

That is correct.

That is, the sovereign, the Commonwealth, could repeal the law that enacted VOPA, just as in this Court's cases, ICC v. United States, Congress could have removed, eliminated the ICC.