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Fifth Circuit Appeal in US v. Mississippi is October 5 in New Orleans

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A panel of judges for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear oral arguments for the State of Mississippi’s appeal in the U.S. v. Mississippi lawsuit regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act. Those arguments will occur on Wednesday, October 5, in the En Banc courtroom (Second Floor, Room 209) in New Orleans.

Doors open at 8 a.m. Cases start at 9 a.m.; the mental health lawsuit is the second scheduled case. Each side will have 20 minutes to present their arguments, and the judges may ask questions. You can listen live to the hearing while it is in progress or listen to a recording that will be available later in the day. The docket number is 21-60772.

If you plan to attend the arguments in person, the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit is located in the John Minor Wisdom U.S. Court of Appeals Building at 600 Camp Street, New Orleans, LA 70130. Be prepared to show your photo I.D. and go through security to enter. Weapons, including mace and pocket knives, are not allowed. Cameras, recording devices and hats are not permitted. There is no place to store belongings in the building, and security guards cannot hold them for you. You may bring in your phone and/or computer, but they must remain off. Street parking is limited, but public parking is available within a few blocks of the courthouse. Designated parking for people with disabilities is available in front of the building on Camp Street. The courthouse does not have a cafeteria, but there are restaurants nearby. For more information, call (504) 310-7700 or visit the Fifth Circuit’s website.

Background: On January 10, 2022, the State of Mississippi filed its initial brief in its appeal of the 2016 U.S. v. Mississippi lawsuit, which the State lost in District Court in September 2019. The lawsuit alleges that the Mississippi mental health system does not provide enough of the right services to help people with serious and persistent mental illness live in the community if they choose to do so. The Court determined that lacking those services violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The State’s appeal brief presents three arguments:

1. The District Court Committed Reversible Error In Ruling That Mississippi Violated Title II Of The A.D.A.

2. The District Court Committed Reversible Error When It Rejected Mississippi’s Fundamental-Alteration Defense.

3. The District Court Abused Its Discretion In Issuing The Remedial Order And Order Appointing A Monitor—Requiring Vacatur Of Both Orders.

On March 29, the United States Department of Justice filed its response to the State of Mississippi’s appeal.

The United States’ brief addresses these issues:

1. Whether the district court correctly concluded that Mississippi violated Title II of the A.D.A. by failing to provide mental health services to individuals with serious mental illness in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.

2. Whether the district court correctly rejected Mississippi’s argument that expanding access to the State’s existing community-based services would fundamentally alter its mental health system.

3. Whether the district court properly exercised its discretion in granting injunctive relief and appointing a Monitor to ensure Mississippi’s compliance with Title II of the A.D.A.

On May 22, 2022, the State replied to the United State’s brief and expounded on its original arguments.

On September 23, 2022, the Court sent this request to the lawyers for both sides:

“The Court requests the parties to address at oral argument whether the United States can sue the State directly under A.D.A. Title II and/or whether the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997a, allows the United States to enforce any rights, privileges, or immunities arguably secured or protected by Title II. See United States v. Florida, 938 F.3d 1221 (11th Cir. 2019); United States v. Sec’y Fla. Agency for Health Care Admin., 21 F.4th 730 11th Cir. 2021)(en banc); see also Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275, 286, 121 S.Ct. 1511, 1519 (2001). The Court also requests the parties to address whether a defendant can waive arguments that a cause of action does not exist.”

Two groups filed Amicus briefs supporting the position of the United States:

Families as Allies appreciates how well these two briefs convey the intent and spirit of the A.D.A. People with mental illness and other disabilities have the right to reasonable accommodations to live in their communities and have the same opportunities as others. We believe it is reasonable to require the state mental health system to develop and ensure the responsive delivery of the services described in its service provider manual. We also believe it is reasonable for the monitor, whom the State chose, to monitor and report on the State’s progress.

At the time of this writing, no individuals or groups had filed amicus briefs supporting the State’s position. If anyone files additional information regarding the upcoming oral argument, we’ll add it to this post.

[photo by Bobak Ha’Eri via Wikipedia]

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