Civil and Human Rights

RELEASE: Supreme Court Ruling in Cummings Leaves Some Victims of Discrimination “With No Remedy at All”

WASHINGTON, DC – Following the Supreme Court’s ruling this morning in Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller, P.L.L.C., Constitutional Accountability Center Appellate Counsel Smita Ghosh issued the following reaction:

In Cummings, the Court held that emotional distress damages are categorically unavailable for victims of discrimination by federal funding recipients in suits brought under anti-discrimination statutes passed pursuant to the Constitution’s Spending Clause. The majority’s decision rests on the flawed assumption that defendants did not have fair notice of their liability for emotional distress damages—despite the long history of courts using those damages to make plaintiffs whole. In fact, as CAC discussed in an amicus brief filed on behalf of law professors with expertise in the areas of remedies, contracts, and torts, courts in the Founding era and after often awarded damages for emotional distress to individuals who experienced mistreatment or exclusion, especially from businesses that opened themselves to the public.

Today’s decision is the latest in a long line of Roberts Court rulings that gut remedies for violations of federal civil rights laws and make it harder to hold corporations and other actors accountable. As Justice Breyer noted in dissent, emotional distress is often the only form of injury suffered by victims of discrimination—including Jane Cummings, the petitioner in this case, who was excluded from a physical therapist’s office because she is deaf and legally blind. The Court’s decision leaves those victims with no remedy at all.

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Resources:

CAC case page in Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller, P.L.L.C.:  https://www.theusconstitution.org/litigation/cummings-v-premier-rehab-keller-p-l-l-c/

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Constitutional Accountability Center is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history. Visit CAC’s website at www.theusconstitution.org.

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