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Lloyd v. Regional Transportation Authority


decided: January 18, 1977.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division No. 75C 1834 - Joel M. Flaum, Judge.

Cummings and Tone, Circuit Judges, and Grant, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Cummings

CUMMINGS, Circuit Judge.

This class action was filed under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (42 U.S.C. § 1983),*fn1 the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq.), the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. §§ 4151 and 4152), and unspecified regulations promulgated under the statutes.*fn2 Plaintiffs also relied on various sections of the Constitution but now rest their constitutional argument only on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The named plaintiffs are George A. Lloyd, a quadriplegic who has been confined to a wheelchair since 1953, and Janet B. Wolfe, who is "mobility-disabled" because of a chronic pulmonary dysfunction. They sued on behalf of a class of all mobility-disabled persons in the northeastern region of Illinois. The two defendants are the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA),*fn3 which provides public transportation and assists in the public mass transportation system in that region, and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA),*fn4 which operates a mass transportation system in the Chicago metropolitan area. The complaint alleges that the suing class is unable to use defendants' public transportation system because of physical disabilities. Plaintiffs aver on information and belief that defendants are in the process of planning for the purchase of new transportation equipment utilizing federal funds*fn5 and that, unless defendants are compelled to take affirmative action, the transportation system will continue to be inaccessible to the mobility-disabled.

The complaint sets out four causes of action. First, plaintiffs assert that defendants have violated Section 16 of the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 (49 U.S.C. § 1612) because they have not met the transportation needs of handicapped persons. Secondly, plaintiffs charge that defendants have violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. § 794) because, by reason of their handicaps, plaintiffs have been denied the meaningful usage of defendants' federally financed mass transportation facilities. Thirdly, plaintiffs claim that defendants have not complied with Sections 1 and 2 of the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. §§ 4151 and 4152) because they have not designed vehicular facilities permitting ready access to physically handicapped persons. Finally, defendants' denial of public transportation system access to plaintiffs and their class is said to violate the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

The plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the defendants from designing or placing into operation any new federally funded facilities unless the facilities were accessible to all mobility-disabled persons. Plaintiffs also prayed for a mandatory injunction compelling the defendants to make the existing transportation system accessible to the mobility-disabled.

The district court filed a memorandum opinion granting the defendants' motions to dismiss on the ground that the three statutes in question do not confer a private right of action. The opinion stated that the only substantial constitutional claim of plaintiffs was founded on the Equal Protection Clause but that it was inapplicable because

"[defendants] have not created any inequalities of treatment. They are not alleged to be providing handicapped persons with any lesser facilities than other persons."*fn6

We vacate and remand.


Plaintiffs and two amici curiae*fn7 rely on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as giving plaintiffs the right to file a private action to enforce compliance with the statutes relied upon in the complaint and the recent regulations of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration.*fn8 Section 504 provides:

"No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States, as defined in section 7(6), shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance" (29 U.S.C. § 794).

This provision closely tracks*fn9 Section 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,*fn10 which was construed in Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563, 39 L. Ed. 2d 1, 94 S. Ct. 786. There a unanimous Supreme Court held that Section 601 provided a private cause of action. See also Bossier Parish School Board v. Lemon, 370 F.2d 847, 852 (5th Cir. 1969), certiorari denied, 388 U.S. 911, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1350, 87 S. Ct. 2116. While adverting to regulations and guidelines issued by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) pursuant to Section 602 of the Act*fn11 and the respondent school district's contractual agreement to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the regulations thereunder,*fn12 Justice Douglas (speaking for himself and Justices Brennan, Marshall, Powell and Rehnquist) stated, in reversing the court of appeals, that "[we] do not reach the Equal Protection Clause argument which has been advanced but rely solely on § 601." 414 U.S. at 566. The concurring opinion of Justice Stewart (with whom the Chief Justice and Justice Blackmun joined) relied on Section 601 and the HEW regulations and guidelines and mentioned that plaintiffs there could concededly sue as third-party beneficiaries of said contract. Finally, Justice Blackmun (with whom the Chief Justice joined) stated that because the plaintiff class involved 2800 school children, he concurred in the holding that the San Francisco School District could not continue to teach students in English without teaching English to Chinese-speaking children or giving their classes in the Chinese language.*fn13 Because of the near identity of language in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Lau is dispositive. Therefore, we hold that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, at least when considered with the regulations which now implement it, establishes affirmative rights and permits this action to proceed.*fn14

Judge Flaum held that Lau was not controlling because this case was devoid of analogs to the HEW guidelines there involved. In the district court's view, the "obligation to provide special programs did not flow from the cited statutory language [Section 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964], but rather from Health, Education and Welfare guidelines which were enacted pursuant to the additional statutory section, § 2000d-1 [Section 602 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964]." Even though the opinion of the Court in Lau can be read as authority for allowing this action to proceed under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act alone, developments subsequent to the district court's opinion have provided a virtual one-to-one correspondence between the conceptual props supporting the concurring opinions in Lau and the elements of the instant case.

Here the conceptual analog of Section 602 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 came into being on April 28, 1976, in the form of Executive Order 11914, 41 F.R. 17871 (April 29, 1976). The Executive Order authorizes HEW and other federal agencies dispensing financial assistance to adopt rules, regulations and orders to ensure that recipients of federal aid are in compliance with Section 504. If compliance cannot be secured voluntarily, it may be compelled by suspension or termination of federal assistance after a hearing or by "other appropriate means authorized by law." HEW is given the responsibility of establishing standards for who are "handicapped individuals" and for determining what are "discriminatory practices" as well as coordinating the implementation of Section 504 by all federal agencies. While the Rehabilitation Act itself contains no express directive to issue regulations,*fn15 the 1974 Amendments to the Act generated a legislative history which indicates that Congress contemplated speedy implementation of Section 504 through regulations. See S. Rep. No. 93-1139, 93d Cong., 2d Sess. 24-25 (1974); H.R. Rep. No. 32-1457, 93d Cong., 2d Sess. 27-28 (1974); S. Rep. No. 32-1297, 93d Cong., 2d Sess. 39-40 (1974). "In review of the foregoing, [it can be concluded] that the [HEW] Secretary is required to promulgate regulations effectuating § 504." Cherry v. Mathews, 419 F. Supp. 922 (D. D.C., 1976).*fn16

Forty days after the district court's opinion was issued, the Urban Mass Transportation Administrator promulgated final regulations, in part under the authority of Section 504. These regulations and various accompanying guidelines are squarely couched in affirmative language. Thus new regulation 49 CFR § 613.204 provides:

" Additional criteria for Urban Mass Transportation Administrator's approvals under 23 CFR 450.320.

"The Urban Mass Transportation Administrator will grant project approvals pursuant to 23 CFR 450.320(a)(3) only if:

" (a) The urban transportation planning process exhibits satisfactory special efforts in planning public mass transportation facilities and services that can be utilized by elderly and handicapped persons ; and

"(b) The annual element of the transportation improvement program developed pursuant to 23 CFR 450.118 and submitted after September 30, 1976, contains projects or project elements designed to benefit elderly and handicapped persons, specifically including wheelchair users and those with semi-ambulatory capabilities ; and

(c) After September 30, 1977, reasonable progress has been demonstrated in implementing previously programmed projects." (Emphasis supplied.)

Advisory information issued simultaneously, to be added to the appendix to 23 CFR Part 450, Subpart A, sets forth general guidance on the meaning of "special efforts" in planning:

"The urban transportation planning process must include special efforts to plan public mass transportation facilities and service that can effectively be utilized by elderly and handicapped persons. As used in this guidance, the term 'special efforts' refers both to service for elderly and handicapped persons in general and specifically to service for wheelchair users and semiambulatory persons. With regard to transportation for wheelchair users and others who cannot negotiate steps, 'special efforts' in planning means genuine, good-faith progress in planning service for wheelchair users and semiambulatory handicapped persons that is reasonable by comparison with the service provided to the general public and that meets a significant fraction of the actual transportation needs of such persons within a reasonable time period." (Emphasis supplied.)

Further advisory information published as an appendix to 49 CFR Part 613, Subpart B, gives several examples of a level of effort that will be deemed to satisfy the special efforts requirement.*fn17 While the guidelines do not purport to be regulatory standards or minimums,*fn18 they do suggest a commitment to an affirmative remedial program of substantial scope. The most recently issued Urban Mass Transportation Administrator's regulation (49 CFR § 609.15(b), 41 F.R. 45842 (October 18, 1976)) provides in pertinent part that:

"procurement solicitations shall provide for a bus design which permits the addition of a wheelchair accessibility option and shall require an assurance from each bidder that it offers a wheelchair accessibility option for its buses. The term 'wheelchair accessibility option' means a level change mechanism (e.g., lift or ramp), sufficient clearances to permit a wheelchair user to reach a securement location, and at least one wheelchair securement device."

Indeed, in oral argument the CTA conceded that the regulations created an affirmative duty on federal grant recipients.

Four months after the district judge's opinion, HEW issued proposed regulations implementing Section 504.*fn19 Paralleling 45 CFR § 80.3(b)(1)(ii) and (iv), the provisions explicitly mentioned by eight Justices in Lau, proposed regulations 49 CFR §§ 84.4(b)(1)(ii) and (iv) specify that recipients of federal financial assistance may not

"(ii) Provide a qualified handicapped person with aid, benefit, or service which is not as effective as that provided to others ;

"(iv) Otherwise limit a qualified handicapped person in the enjoyment of any right, privilege, advantage or opportunity enjoyed by others receiving an aid, benefit or service." (Emphasis supplied.)

Moreover § 84.4(b)(2) establishes that

"A recipient may not provide different or separate aid, benefits or services to handicapped persons unless such action is necessary to provide qualified handicapped persons with aid, benefits, or services which are as effective as those provided to others." (Emphasis supplied.)*fn20

Finally, pending the adoption of a new procedural regulation consolidating all of the enforcement procedures implementing the civil rights statutes for which HEW has enforcement responsibilities,*fn21 the "procedural provisions of the title VI regulation, which may be found at 45 CFR Part 80, will be incorporated by reference into the section 504 regulations for use during the interim." 41 F.R. 29548 (July 16, 1976). The regulations thus reduce to concrete terms the abstract words of section 504.

Taken together with the numerosity of the class,*fn22 every element of the two*fn23 concurring opinions in Lau is also satisfied under the statutory and administrative framework of the instant case. The existence of affirmative rights under Section 504 necessarily follows, for, to paraphrase Justice Douglas in Lau :

"Under these [federal] standards there is no equality of treatment merely by providing [the handicapped] with the same facilities [as ambulatory persons] * * *; for [handicapped persons] who [can] not [gain access to such facilities] are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful [public transportation]." 414 U.S. at 566.*fn24

Cf. Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 431, 28 L. Ed. 2d 158, 91 S. Ct. 849.


Having demonstrated that Lau v. Nichols is conclusive on the question of the existence of affirmative rights under Section 504 and the regulations, we now turn to a consideration whether a private cause of action may be implied to vindicate these rights. As the parties have acknowledged, Cort v. Ash, 422 U.S. 66, 78, 45 L. Ed. 2d 26, 95 S. Ct. 2080, sets out the four factors relevant to determining whether a private remedy is implicit in a statute not expressly providing one. They are:

"First, is the plaintiff 'one of the class for whose especial benefit the statute was enacted,' (emphasis supplied) - that is, does the statute create a federal right in favor of the plaintiff? Second, is there any indication of legislative intent, explicit or implicit, either to create such a remedy or to deny one? Third, is it consistent with the underlying purposes of the legislative scheme to imply such a remedy for the plaintiff? And finally, is the cause of action one traditionally relegated to state law, in an area basically the concern of the States, so that it would be inappropriate to infer a cause of action based solely on federal law?" (Citations omitted.)

Applying the Cort factors here leads to the conclusion that a private cause of action must be implied from Section 504.

(1) Plaintiffs of course are among the class specifically benefited by the enactment of the statute. As demonstrated above, Section 504 establishes affirmative private rights. In particular, these rights apply to transportation barriers impeding handicapped individuals.*fn25 29 U.S.C. § 701(11).

(2) While the 1973 legislative history of Section 504 is bereft of much explanation,*fn26 the legislative history of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1974*fn27 casts light on the original Congressional intent. These amendments, inter alia, redefined the term "handicapped individual" as used in Section 504 and, as clarifying amendments, have cogent significance in construing Section 504. See Red Lion Broadcasting Co., Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission, 395 U.S. 367, 380-381, 23 L. Ed. 2d 371, 89 S. Ct. 1794. It is noteworthy that the Senate Report was submitted on November 26, 1974, and the Lau opinion construing Section 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was handed down on January 21 of that year and certainly known by the Senate Committee.*fn28 Indeed, the report of the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee notes that the

"new definition applies to section 503, as well as to section 504, in order to avoid limiting the affirmative action obligation of a Federal contractor to only that class of persons who are eligible for vocational rehabilitation services. * * * Where applicable, section 504 is intended to include a requirement of affirmative action as well as a prohibition against discrimination." 4 U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News 6390 (1974).

The Committee continues by stating that Section 504's similarity to Section 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not accidental:

"Section 504 was patterned after, and is almost identical to, the antidiscrimination language of section 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d-1 (relating to race, color, or national origin), and section 901 of the Education Amendments of 1972, 42 U.S.C. 1683 (relating to sex). The section therefore constitutes the establishment of a broad government policy that programs receiving Federal financial assistance shall be operated without discrimination on the basis of handicap. It does not specifically require the issuance of regulations or expressly provide for enforcement procedures, but it is clearly mandatory in form, and such regulations and enforcement are intended." (4 U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News 6390 (1974)).

Further, the scope of the enforcement mechanism to result from such conscious parallelism did not escape comment:

"The language of section 504, in followig [sic] the above-cited Acts, further envisions the implementation of a compliance program which is similar to those Acts, including promulgation of regulations providing for investigation and review of recipients of Federal financial assistance, attempts to bring non-complying recipients into voluntary compliance through informal efforts such as negotiation, and the imposition of sanctions against recipients who continue to discriminate against otherwise qualified handicapped persons on the basis of handicap. Such sanctions would include, where appropriate, the termination of Federal financial assistance to the recipient or other means otherwise authorized by law. Implementation of section 504 would also include pre-grant analysis of recipients to ensure that Federal funds are not initially provided to those who discriminate against handicapped individuals. Such analysis would include pre-grant review procedures and a requirement for assurances of compliance with section 504. This approach to implementation of section 504, which closely follows the models of the above-cited anti-discrimination provisions, would ensure administrative due process (right to hearing, right to review), provide for administrative consistency within the Federal government as well as relative ease of implementation, and permit a judicial remedy through a private action." Id. at 6390-6391. (Emphasis supplied.)

While the above language contemplates judicial review of an administrative proceeding as contradistinct from an independent cause of action in federal court, still it is plain that the rights of the handicapped were meant to be enforced at some point through the vehicle of a private cause of action. When administrative remedial machinery does not exist to vindicate an affirmative right, there can be no objection to an independent cause of action in the federal courts.*fn29 See Steele v. Louisville & N.R. Co., 323 U.S. 192, 206-207, 89 L. Ed. 173, 65 S. Ct. 226. In any event, under the second prong of the Cort test, there is surely an indication of legislative intent to create such a remedy and none to deny it.

(3) It is certainly consistent with the underlying purposes of the legislative scheme to imply such a remedy. Indeed, one of the explicitly detailed purposes of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was to "enforce statutory and regulatory standards and requirements regarding barrier-free construction of public facilities and study and develop solutions to existing architectural and transportation barriers impeding handicapped individuals." 29 U.S.C. § 701(11). Moreover, since a private cause of action in this case serves to enforce the uniform substantive standards laid down by the UMTA and HEW regulations, the unseemly vista of a spotty application of ad hoc remedies in lawsuits in various regions of the country is not presented here. And no objection to local implementation of these substantive standards can prevail since the nationwide Urban Mass Transportation Administrator's regulations which set out standards for meeting the needs of the handicapped in transportation only serve as a guide for the local implementation of transportation opportunities for the mobility-disabled. 41 F.R. 18234 (April 30, 1976).

(4) Affording a private remedy under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 would not be the kind of suit traditionally relegated to state law in an area basically the concern of the States. In fact, both the RTA and CTA conceded below that it was the intent of Congress to deal with the transportation needs of the handicapped on a national basis.

Because all four Cort tests are satisfied, we are reinforced in our holding that Section 504 implicitly provides a private remedy. Therefore, we need not and do not consider whether the Equal Protection Clause (together with 28 U.S.C. § 1343) and the other statutes cited in the complaint also confer jurisdiction on the district court.

Defendants rely principally on Cannon v. University of Chicago, 559 F.2d 1063 (7th Cir. 1976), in arguing that Section 504 does not provide for a private right of action. There a panel of this Court held that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. § 1681) does not permit a private cause of action. However, the Court noted that in contradistinction to Lau, Cannon involved only an individual plaintiff who had not exhausted her administrative remedies (slip op. 11-16). Here we have a huge class, and plaintiffs and amicus Urban Mass Transportation Administrator have not persuaded us that any administrative remedy is yet available to plaintiffs and their class, nor has Congress provided other means of enforcement. Furthermore, it should be noted that the Cannon opinion is not final, for the panel granted the petition for rehearing in part on November 30, 1976, and now again has the case sub judice. There HEW's most recent brief quotes legislative history of Section 504 to show that a private right of action should be inferred (Br. 15-16).

Defendants and the amicus Urban Mass Transportation Administrator also rely on Bradford School Bus Transit, Inc. v. Chicago Transit Authority, 537 F.2d 943, 948 (7th Cir. 1976), in claiming that here plaintiffs must exhaust their administrative remedies before seeking judicial relief. There we applied the primary jurisdiction doctrine because the regulations specifically provided "for judicial review of administrative actions regarding school bus operations after certain procedures have been exhausted." No comparable regulations presently exist with respect to the problem at hand. There being no administrative remedy open to these plaintiffs, neither the exhaustion nor primary jurisdiction doctrine applies. Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397, 405-406, 25 L. Ed. 2d 442, 90 S. Ct. 1207.

Upon remand, defendants may of course be able to show that they are in compliance with the statutes on which plaintiffs rely and the regulations thereunder.*fn30 The affidavit filed in the district court by defendant CTA's general operations manager tends in that direction although it may already be partly obsolete in view of the Transbus developments (41 F.R. 15735, 32286-32287, 45842 (April 14, 1976; August 2, 1976; October 18, 1976)). See also notes 17-18 and accompanying text supra. Our opinion expresses no view on the ultimate merits of plaintiffs' case because the undeveloped record does not show whether RTA and CTA are following the statutes and regulations.*fn31

In concluding, we cannot fault the district court for its dismissal order. Without the benefit of any regulations, it is difficult to perceive what relief could have been afforded at that stage. However, the Urban Mass Transportation Administrator's regulations were issued before this appeal was briefed and argued and of course apply to our deliberations. Thorpe v. Housing Authority, 393 U.S. 268, 281-282, 21 L. Ed. 2d 474, 89 S. Ct. 518; United States v. Fitzgerald, 545 F.2d 578, 581 (7th Cir. 1976). Since the plaintiffs may now be able to show that they are entitled to remedial action, the case must be returned to the district court for appropriate further proceedings. If effective by then, consideration will also have to be given to HEW's proposed regulations (note 19 supra).

Vacated and remanded.*fn32


Vacated and Remanded

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