RIPPLE, Circuit Judge.
Four infants with disabilities filed a class action suit alleging that the State of Illinois was not complying with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"). These plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief to achieve recognition of their rights under the IDEA and to require the Governor
Four infants with disabilities brought this action on behalf of themselves and a class of approximately 26,000 other children in Illinois who are eligible for, but not receiving, early intervention services, allegedly in violation of Part H of the IDEA, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1471-85.
Part H sets up a federal program by which federal funds are granted to states for the development and implementation of systems to provide early intervention services to developmentally-delayed infants and toddlers from birth through age two. The law was enacted because Congress perceived, among other needs, an "urgent and substantial need ... to enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities and to minimize their potential for developmental delay." 20 U.S.C. § 1471(a)(1).
The State of Illinois began participating in the Part H program in 1987, and since then has received in excess of $34 million in federal funds for use in planning and implementing its statewide system of early intervention services. In September, 1991, Illinois enacted the Illinois Early Intervention Services Systems Act ("Illinois Act") which formally established an early intervention system in the state. Although Illinois began its fifth
In 1993, the Auditor General of Illinois reviewed the state's progress in implementing its statewide system and compiled a report regarding the status of the early intervention program. The report indicated that services were not available in all parts of the state, many eligible children were not being served and were on waiting lists, some federal and state program components were not fully implemented and no tracking or other follow-up was being conducted. The defendants, throughout the proceedings, have not challenged the plaintiffs' allegation of Illinois' lack of complete compliance with the elements of Part H. Instead, they have argued predominantly that plaintiffs cannot bring an action against them, both because the action is barred by the Eleventh Amendment and because Part H does not create rights that may be enforced by private parties in an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The named representatives of the plaintiff class are four children with disabilities who were placed on waiting lists. They brought suit on behalf of the class of eligible but unserviced infants and sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The declaratory relief they requested was for the district court to declare that Illinois' failure to provide all eligible infants with early intervention services under Part H was a violation of their rights under Part H. Correspondingly, the injunctive relief requested was for the district court to require Illinois, through its Governor and Superintendent of Education, to provide early intervention services to all eligible children and, in so doing, to comply with the mandatory aspects of Part H.
B. District Court's Decision
On June 13, 1994, the district court denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint. It determined that this action was not barred by the Eleventh Amendment because it falls under the Ex parte Young exception. The court held that, because plaintiffs were seeking prospective injunctive relief, the fact that Illinois possibly would have to spend considerable funds to comply with Part H did not remove the action from the strictures of the Ex parte Young doctrine. On February 1, 1996, with cross-motions for summary judgment before it, the district court decided to grant the plaintiffs' motion. In its decision, the district court held that plaintiffs had a cognizable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to enforce their rights pursuant to Part H of the IDEA, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1471-85. The district court further determined that Part H requires that, "after five years, a state `shall' have in effect `at a minimum' certain programs serving `all' eligible children." R.58 at 18. Nevertheless, in framing relief, the district court found that the "practicalities of the situation" prevented its employing a "strict reading of the term `all.'" Id. at 17-18. The court therefore granted plaintiffs the requested declaratory relief, stating that (1) Illinois was required to have in place a statewide system of programs providing early intervention services to all eligible infants, and (2) Illinois was required to provide the services mandated under Part H. The district court also granted detailed injunctive relief designed to require the defendants to bring Illinois into "meaningful compliance" with Part H.
A. Eleventh Amendment
On appeal, the defendants renewed their claim that the plaintiffs' action is barred
In denying the defendants' Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss that was based in part on the ground that the suit was barred by the Eleventh Amendment, the district court determined that it had jurisdiction because the plaintiffs' action falls under the Ex parte Young doctrine. The Governor and State Superintendent of Education of Illinois assert that the district court erred in holding that the doctrine was applicable in this case. They contend that the Supreme Court's decision in Seminole Tribe circumscribed the scope of the Ex parte Young doctrine because the Court stated that, "where Congress has prescribed a detailed remedial scheme for the enforcement against a State of a statutorily created right, a court should hesitate before casting aside those limitations and permitting an action against a state officer based upon Ex parte Young." Seminole Tribe, 517 U.S. at ___, 116 S.Ct. at 1132. The defendants maintain that Part H contains such a detailed remedial scheme, and that therefore the district court erred when it substituted its jurisdiction for the remedial scheme established by Congress. Relatedly, the defendants argue that, because the remedial scheme provided under Part H is less rigorous than the remedies available in federal court proceedings, allowing resort to federal court in this case is contrary to Congress' intent in creating Part H's remedial scheme. We are not convinced that the district court's decision that this case falls under the Ex parte Young doctrine is contrary to Seminole Tribe; therefore, we hold that the Eleventh Amendment did not bar the jurisdiction of the district court over this matter.
In Seminole Tribe, the Seminole Tribe of Indians in Florida sued the Governor and State of Florida. It alleged a violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act's ("IGRA") requirement that Florida negotiate in good faith to enter into a "Tribal-State compact governing the conduct of gaming activities." See Seminole Tribe, 517 U.S. at ___, 116 S.Ct. at 1120 (quoting 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(3)(A)). Such a compact was mandated under the IGRA in order for the Seminole Indians to conduct lawfully various gaming activities, including slot machines, casino games, dog racing, lotteries and others. See id. at ___-___, 116 S.Ct. at 1119-20. The IGRA contained specific remedial provisions allowing resort to federal court in the event a state violated its duty to negotiate in good faith. The district court's role in resolving such a dispute is substantially limited under the IGRA.
The situation before us is significantly different from the one in Seminole Tribe. At the outset, we note that the type of action brought by the plaintiffs is squarely within the traditional bounds of the Ex parte Young doctrine as reaffirmed in Seminole Tribe.
Part H also differs from the IGRA in another respect that was significant in the Court's analysis in Seminole Tribe. Whereas the IGRA imposed the duty to negotiate on "the State," Part H, by contrast, imposes significant duties on individual state executive officers, including the Governor.
The Supreme Court, in Dellmuth v. Muth, 491 U.S. 223, 109 S.Ct. 2397, 105 L.Ed.2d 181 (1989), held that there was no abrogation of state sovereign immunity under the IDEA (then the EHA) because that law "makes no reference whatsoever to either the Eleventh Amendment or the States' sovereign immunity." Id. at 231, 109 S.Ct. at 2402. In response, Congress added § 1403 to the IDEA in October, 1990. Section 1403(a) of the IDEA provides that a "State shall not be immune under the eleventh amendment to the Constitution of the United States from suit in Federal court for a violation of this chapter."
Because we decide this issue under the Ex parte Young doctrine, we need not decide definitively whether § 1403 might be characterized appropriately as a waiver of the recipient state's immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. The defendants seek to characterize the section as one of congressional abrogation; they then argue that the Court's rationale in Seminole Tribe, validating only those abrogations that Congress effects through the Fourteenth Amendment, invalidates any abrogation of state immunity under Part H. In arguing in favor of waiver, the plaintiffs urge that, because Illinois intentionally availed itself of funds under Part H, it has accepted the IDEA's terms. In Seminole Tribe, the Supreme Court explicitly left intact the "unremarkable, and completely unrelated [to abrogation], proposition that the States may waive their sovereign immunity." Seminole Tribe, 517 U.S. at ___, 116 S.Ct. at 1128. Congress may condition receipt of federal funds on a waiver of a state's immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. See Atascadero State Hosp. v. Scanlon, 473 U.S. 234, 238 n. 1, 105 S.Ct. 3142, 3145 n. 1, 87 L.Ed.2d 171 (1985).
The Supreme Court also has held that, to effectuate a waiver of Eleventh Amendment immunity through a state's conditional acceptance of federal funds, Congress must express, unambiguously, its intent to impose such a condition on the state. "By insisting that Congress speak with a clear voice, we enable the States to exercise their choice knowingly, cognizant of the consequences of their participation." Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 451 U.S. 1, 17, 101 S.Ct. 1531, 1539-40, 67 L.Ed.2d 694 (1981). Here, the text of the statute does not speak in terms of waiver or of abrogation. However, Congress also included as a caption to this section "Abrogation of State sovereign immunity." 20 U.S.C. § 1403. The legislative history of the section reveals, moreover, that this choice of language was a conscious one. The original bill in the House of Representatives employed the word "abrogation." See H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 101-787, at 55 (1990), reprinted in 1990 U.S.C.C.A.N. 1784, 1787. The Senate version contained the
Because we need not resolve, in this case, whether the historical context of this provision and the existence of the problematic caption with the word "abrogation" destroy the requisite clarity needed for a waiver of Eleventh Amendment immunity, we shall not address the other objections which the defendants have raised to the possibility of waiver of Eleventh Amendment immunity.
B. IDEA Rights Enforceable under § 1983
We next shall examine whether the plaintiffs' claim can be brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In City of Chicago v. Lindley, 66 F.3d 819, 823-24 (7th Cir.1995), we had occasion to set forth the standards that govern such an inquiry. Those standards, refined and reinforced by the Supreme Court's recent pronouncement in Blessing v. Freestone, ___ U.S. ___, 117 S.Ct. 1353, 137 L.Ed.2d 569 (1997), govern our analysis today.
In Maine v. Thiboutot, 448 U.S. 1, 6-8, 100 S.Ct. 2502, 2505-06, 65 L.Ed.2d 555 (1980), the Supreme Court announced the watershed rule that litigants may rely on § 1983 to challenge violations of federal statutes. Later cases soon made clear, however, that this general rule was subject to substantial qualification. Section 1983 is cast in terms of "rights, privileges, or immunities" rather than in terms of all violations of federal law; therefore, a plaintiff must show that the particular federal statute at issue creates specific rights. See Golden State Transit Corp. v. City of Los Angeles, 493 U.S. 103, 106, 110 S.Ct. 444, 448-49, 107 L.Ed.2d 420 (1989). Absent such enforceable rights, a cause of action under § 1983 is not available. See Suter v. Artist M., 503 U.S. 347, 356, 112 S.Ct. 1360, 1366, 118 L.Ed.2d 1 (1992). Moreover, even if the federal statute in question does create such enforceable rights, a cause of action under § 1983 cannot be sustained
In the defendants' view, a cause of action under § 1983 cannot be maintained in this case because Part H does not create enforceable rights, privileges or immunities and because Congress has foreclosed enforcement of Part H in the enactment itself. We shall examine each of these contentions.
1. Enforceable Rights
The Supreme Court has distilled a three-part inquiry for the lower courts to follow when they must decide whether a particular federal statute creates a right enforceable under § 1983:(1) whether the plaintiff is an intended beneficiary of the statute; (2) whether the plaintiff's asserted interests are not so vague and amorphous as to be beyond the competence of the judiciary to enforce; and (3) whether the statute imposes a binding obligation on the state. See Blessing, ___ U.S. at ___, 117 S.Ct. at 1359; Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 509, 110 S.Ct. 2510, 2517, 110 L.Ed.2d 455 (1990). Here, the defendants focus on the last of these inquiries. We hasten to point out, however, that there is a significant overlap between the second and third.
In Blessing, the Supreme Court reemphasized the appropriate methodology. ___ U.S. at ___-___, 117 S.Ct. at 1360-61. To determine whether the requirements of Part H create enforceable rights, we must "examine exactly what is required of States by the Act." Suter, 503 U.S. at 358, 112 S.Ct. at 1367-68. We must also take "pains to analyze the statutory provisions in detail." Id. at 357, 112 S.Ct. at 1367. Here, the parties agree that Part H was intended to benefit the plaintiffs. We therefore limit our examination to whether Part H imposes a binding obligation on the state and to whether the interests asserted by plaintiffs are so vague and amorphous that they are beyond the competence of the judiciary to enforce. See Wilder, 496 U.S. at 509-10, 110 S.Ct. at 2517-18.
In the view of the defendants, the requirements of Part H do not create any specific rights in the plaintiffs. They contend that Illinois' only obligation is to submit an application with assurances to the Secretary that a statewide system is in place as of the fifth year of participation. The defendants further argue that Illinois has considerable discretion in determining how to set up its system, and that there are no specific timetables for the components of the system to be in place. Under these circumstances, they continue, it cannot be said that Congress gave the plaintiffs any specific rights to enforce under § 1983. Turning to the text of the statute, the defendants note that § 1475(c), the provision requiring the state-wide system at the five-year point, does not say specifically that Illinois has to serve "all" children. They further allege that, although § 1476, which does contain the term "all," outlines the components of the statewide plan, it does not require specifically that all children must be served by a state's fifth year of participation. In the defendants' view, therefore, states have broad discretion to determine how they will implement their programs under Part H. Given this discretion, including the authority to define who is eligible for services, exactly what services children will receive and which children will be eligible to receive them, the defendants assert that Part H is too vague to be enforced by § 1983.
We cannot accept this view of the statutory scheme. Rather, we agree with the district court, and the United States as amicus curiae, that the language of Part H is mandatory and clear and therefore creates rights enforceable by individuals. Read as a whole, Part H requires that, by the fifth year of its participation, Illinois must have in place a statewide system. See 20 U.S.C. § 1475(c). That system "shall include" 14 minimum components. Some of these components create specific rights because they include specific services that eligible children are entitled to receive, including the right (1) to be identified and referred for help, (2) to receive a multidisciplinary evaluation and (3) to receive an individual family service plan ("IFSP") specifying services the child will
The statute is specific not only with respect to the services that are to be provided but also with respect to the beneficiaries of those services. Section 1476 states that the statewide program providing services to "all infants and toddlers with disabilities ... shall include ... timetables for ensuring that appropriate early intervention services will be available to all infants and toddlers with disabilities in the State ... before the beginning of the fifth year." 20 U.S.C. §§ 1476(a) & (b)(2) (emphasis supplied). "All" is unambiguous; it means every eligible child. In addition, the statutory language regarding state plans is direct; it uses "shall" and "required." The regulations use the word "must." The natural meaning of these terms is mandatory, not precatory. See Blessing, ___ U.S. at ___, 117 S.Ct. at 1359.
As the record demonstrates, the federal agency charged with the administration of the statute, appearing here through the United States as amicus curiae in support of affirmance, has long maintained that the state has specific obligations to the individuals who now come before us as plaintiffs seeking enforcement of their rights. Policy memoranda from the agency in charge of implementing this federal program, the United States Department of Education, make clear that all eligible children are entitled to receive early intervention services.
We encounter here none of the vagueness that caused us to determine that the rights asserted in City of Chicago v. Lindley, 66 F.3d 819 (7th Cir.1995), could not be enforced. Here, the statute spells out the specific identity of the recipients and the specific services to which they are entitled. Moreover, the obligation of the state according to the clear statutory language is to provide the services, not to make the "reasonable efforts" that rendered the rights asserted in Suter unenforceable. As the United States as amicus curiae notes, the statute at issue here does not simply require the "substantial compliance"
2. Section 1983 Enforcement Not Precluded
The defendants submit that, even if Part H does create enforceable rights, the statute itself creates a remedial scheme that is sufficiently comprehensive to demonstrate congressional intent to preclude the remedy of suits under § 1983. In their view, Congress set forth detailed procedural safeguards in order to provide for the enforcement of Part H. Primary enforcement authority is invested in the Secretary, except when parents are aggrieved by administrative resolution of their complaints; nowhere in Part H is there a provision for federal court supervision of the states. Given such an extensive scheme, they contend, Congress impliedly foreclosed other enforcement avenues.
Neither the text nor the structure of the statute will sustain the defendants' argument. Congress certainly did not foreclose explicitly recourse to § 1983. Nor have the defendants met the "difficult showing," Blessing, ___ U.S. at ___, 117 S.Ct. at 1362, that allowing an action under § 1983 is inconsistent with Part H's remedial scheme. Although the Secretary has oversight authority over Part H funding, including the review of state plans, this authority is not inconsistent with the invocation of § 1983. Indeed, the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected such an argument. See Blessing, ___ U.S. at ___-___, 117 S.Ct. at 1362-63 (noting that although agency Secretaries in Wright and Wilder had "oversight powers [that] were accompanied by limited state grievance procedures for individuals, [the Court] found that § 1983 was still available"); Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 514, 110 S.Ct. 2510, 2519-20, 110 L.Ed.2d 455 (1990) (holding that provision permitting the Secretary to cut off funds also gave the judiciary the authority to enforce rights of beneficiaries under the statute, and that the state was on notice that it must comply with the requirements of the statute); Wright v. City of Roanoke Redev. & Housing Auth., 479 U.S. 418, 428, 107 S.Ct. 766, 773, 93 L.Ed.2d 781 (1987) (Secretary's authority to audit and to cut off funds did not indicate that Congress intended to foreclose a § 1983 remedy); Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397, 420, 90 S.Ct. 1207, 1221-22, 25 L.Ed.2d 442 (1970) (same).
We must also remember that § 1415(f) makes clear that Congress intended that a § 1983 remedy be available to the beneficiaries of the statute. The defendants suggest that § 1415(f) ought not to be read as authorizing the plaintiffs' suit under § 1983 because Part H cannot be considered to be within the ambit of § 1415(f). We cannot accept this view. As the defendants acknowledge, § 1415(f) was enacted in response to the Supreme Court's decision in Smith v. Robinson, 468 U.S. 992, 104 S.Ct. 3457, 82 L.Ed.2d 746 (1984). Smith had held that the EHA was the exclusive avenue through which to assert a claim. The EHA's extensive administrative scheme, the Court had held, foreclosed a § 1983 or similar action. Congress responded by enacting § 1415(f) which allowed "children and youth with disabilities" to bring § 1983 claims under the EHA.
Our review of the statute convinces us that the defendants' analysis does not accurately reflect the congressional intent. We think that the statutory language and the structure of the Act both make clear that Congress did not intend that the remedies supplied in Part H ought to foreclose other avenues of relief. As the parties agree, § 1415(f) was enacted for the express purpose of ensuring that § 1983 claims would be available to enforce the IDEA. Although § 1415(f) predated Part H, its express language encompasses the entire "chapter."
Nor do we believe that § 1415(f)'s reference to "children and youth,"
The district court properly granted the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment; accordingly, that judgment is affirmed.
20 U.S.C. §§ 1471(a)(2)-(5).
20 U.S.C. §§ 1472(1)(A) & (B).
20 U.S.C. §§ 1472(2)(E)(i)-(xiv).
20 U.S.C. §§ 1476(b)(1)-(14).
20 U.S.C. § 1415(f).