The Supreme Court agreed Monday to
consider more limits on lawsuits by the disabled,
this time involving a state medical board's refusal to
license a mentally ill doctor.
Justices will decide whether agencies, like the California
Medical Board, have constitutional
protection from lawsuits under a federal
The high court heard four cases involving the landmark Americans
with Disabilities Act in its last
term, and all four rulings went against
the disabled. The 1990 law forbids discrimination against
Dr. Michael J. Hason sued after he was turned down for a medical
license because he suffers from
depression. He argued that the
licensing board should have accommodated his disability by
offering him a probationary license
that required him to get psychotherapy or
An appeals court said Hason could sue the medical board, but the
Supreme Court may stop the suit and prevent others like
it. In recent years the court has
repeatedly narrowed the scope of the
landmark disability-rights law. In early 2001, the court ruled
that state workers cannot use the law to win damages for
on-the-job discrimination. Justices
said the law does not trump states'
constitutional immunity against being sued for damages in
Lawyers for the California board said that the 2001 decision
should protect it from Hason's
lawsuit. They also argued that a license was
not a "service, program or activity" that the ADA
requires governments to offer the
Joel A. Davis, a deputy attorney
general in California, said states
have a right to determine qualified doctors without interference
from a federal law.
Hason claims he was treated differently not only because of his
also because he was from New York and new to California.
psychiatrist told the board that Hason should be allowed to
practice medicine and that he was not
a danger to patients. The case is
Medical Board of California v. Hason, 02-479.