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Tenth Circuit Decision Favors Plaintiffs' Disparate Impact Claims

On July 9, 2002, the federal Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed a Kansas District Court decision, in Robinson v. Kansas, denying defendants' motion to dismiss. The case was brought under the implementing regulations of Title VI, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Fourteenth Amendment.

Plaintiffs claim that the Kansas education finance system has an adverse disparate impact on minority students, students who are not of U.S. origin, and students with disabilities. They seek an injunction barring state officials from enforcing the State funding system. Defendants claimed immunity under the Eleventh Amendment and asserted that the relief sought does not fall under the Ex Parte Young doctrine.

The Circuit Court first discussed the Supreme Court's decision in Alexander v. Sandoval and concluded that "[d]isparate impact claims may still be brought against state officials for prospective injunctive relief through an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to enforce section 602 regulations [under Title VI]." The court also ruled that the State had waived its sovereign immunity by accepting federal financial assistance under the Rehabilitation Act and that "state officials are not protected by the Eleventh Amendment [in this case], pursuant to the Ex Parte Young doctrine" under Title VI and the Fourteenth Amendment. To continue their Title VI claim, plaintiffs will need to amend their complaint to allege a violation under § 1983.

Prepared July 11, 2002