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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Louise Elizabeth Hurst filed suit in federal district court to review the denial of medical treatment by the Texas Rehabilitation Commission, since renamed the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS). Before filing suit, Hurst exhausted all available administrative remedies. The defendants in the district court responded to Hurst’s suit with a motion to dismiss based on state immunity to suit in federal court under the 11th Amendment. The magistrate judge to whom the motion was referred found that Congress in 29 U.S.C. �722(c)(5)(J)(i) clearly conditioned the state’s receipt of federal funds under this program upon the state’s waiver of 11th Amendment immunity. DARS filed objections to the magistrate judge’s recommendation. The district court declined to accept the magistrate judge’s recommendation and dismissed the case without prejudice on grounds that Congress had not clearly declared its intent to condition the state’s receipt of federal funds upon the state’s waiver of 11th Amendment immunity. Hurst challenges the district court’s ruling on appeal. HOLDING:Affirmed. The 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: “The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” The court stated two exceptions to 11th Amendment immunity. First, Congress can abrogate states’ 11th Amendment immunity without a state’s consent when acting under its authority under the enforcement provisions of �5 of the 14th Amendment. Second, a state may waive its immunity and consent to suit in federal court. One way a state may waive its 11th Amendment immunity, the court stated, is by accepting federal funds, disbursed pursuant to Congress’ spending power, that “were properly conditioned on the state forgoing its sovereign immunity.” A state’s receipt of federal funds does not automatically constitute a waiver of its 11th Amendment immunity. In 1987′s South Dakota v. Dole, the U.S. Supreme Court described the limited circumstances in which a waiver will be recognized: 1. the federal expenditures in question must benefit the general welfare; 2. the conditions imposed on the recipients must be unambiguous; 3. the conditions must be reasonably related to the purpose of the expenditure; 4. no condition may violate any independent constitutional prohibition; and 5. the condition may not be coercive. DARS conceded that the Rehabilitation Act satisfied four of the five elements of this test. The parties disputed whether the second requirement of an unambiguous statement was met. A state waives its immunity by voluntarily participating in federal spending programs only when Congress includes a clear statement of intent to condition participation in the programs on a state’s consent to waive its constitutional immunity. In seeking to determine whether the language of a condition is sufficiently clear, courts must view the statute “from the perspective of a state official who is engaged in the process of deciding whether the state should accept [federal] funds and the obligations that go with those funds,” asking “whether . . . a state official would clearly understand [the nature of the condition].” Hurst argues that �102 of the Rehabilitation Act codified at 29 U.S.C. �722(c)(5)(J)(i) provides a clear-statement of intent to require a state to waive its 11th Amendment immunity in order to receive federal funds based on language in �722: “Any party aggrieved by a final decision . . . may bring a civil action for review of such decision . . . in any state court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States of competent jurisdiction without regard to the amount in controversy.” In reaching its holding, the court cited 1985′s Atascadero State Hospital v. Scanlon, in which the U.S. Supreme Court found that another provision of the Rehabilitation Act provided remedies for violations of the provision by “any recipient of Federal assistance.” Thus, the provision purported to treat states like other recipients of federal aid. “But given their constitutional role,” the opinion stated, “the States are not like any other class of recipient of federal aid. A general authorization for suit in federal court is not the kind of unequivocal statutory language sufficient to abrogate the Eleventh Amendment.” Thus, the court found that �102 of the Rehabilitation Act did not contain the necessary “clear-statement” requiring a waiver of 11th Amendment immunity upon receipt of federal funds by the state under this program. Likewise, the court found that Texas did not voluntarily waive its 11th Amendment immunity for the program. OPINION:Davis, J.; Davis and Stewart, J.J., and Crone, D.J.

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