Friday, May 9, 2014

No Paws At Drake

The Iowa Supreme Court has dismissed with prejudice a petition brought against Drake University Law by a student under the state's diabilities act.

Some background

Nicole Lara Shumate enrolled at Drake in June 2006 and graduated in December 2009. Shumate had trained service dogs for many years, and in her first semester of law school, she founded Iowa’s first service dog training nonprofit organization: Paws and Effect.

On August 29, 2011, Shumate filed a lawsuit alleging Drake discriminated against her in violation of Iowa Code chapter 216C. Shumate claimed she was denied access to law school classes on September 1, 2009, because she was accompanied by a dog she was training. Shumate alleged the law school dean told her that day that "access to law school facilities with a service dog in training would not be tolerated per the university policy." Then, on September 6, a law professor denied Shumate and her dog entry to a cultural event at a local church. Shumate also alleged Drake humiliated and harassed her because of her attempts to bring the dog she was training on campus, and Drake thereby created a "poisonous learning environment."

The court

In this appeal, we must decide whether Iowa Code chapter 216C, entitled "Rights of Persons with Physical Disabilities," implicitly provides a service dog trainer a private right to sue. Plaintiff, who works as a service dog trainer but is not disabled, alleges that while she was a student at Drake University Law School (Drake) she was barred from bringing a dog she was training into the classroom and to another event with her. She sued Drake to vindicate the access rights created in Iowa Code section 216C.11(2) (2009), which provides that a violation of the statute is a simple misdemeanor but does not expressly provide any civil remedy.

The district court granted Drake’s motion to dismiss, ruling section 216C.11(2) creates no private enforcement action. The court of appeals reversed and reinstated the lawsuit, holding that under our four-part test adopted from Cort v. Ash, 422 U.S. 66, 95 S. Ct. 2080, 45 L. Ed. 2d 26 (1975), a service dog trainer has an implied cause of action to sue for money damages and other relief. We granted Drake’s application for further review.

For the reasons explained below, we decline Drake’s invitation to abandon our four-part test for determining whether an Iowa statute provides an implied private right of action. We reiterate that the dispositive factor is the intent of the legislature and that the other factors help to ascertain legislative intent. Applying the Cort factors, we hold section 216C.11(2) does not provide a service dog trainer with a private right to sue because closely related statutes expressly create private enforcement actions to aid the disabled while chapter 216C does not, and an implied right of action under chapter 216C would circumvent the procedures of the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA). We conclude that Applying the Cort factors, we hold section 216C.11(2) does not provide a service dog trainer with a private right to sue because closely related statutes expressly create private enforcement actions to aid the disabled while chapter 216C does not, and an implied right of action under chapter 216C would circumvent the procedures of the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA). We conclude the legislature purposely omitted a private right to sue from chapter 216C. Accordingly, we vacate the decision of the court of appeals and affirm the judgment of the district court dismissing plaintiff’s lawsuit against Drake.

(Mike Frisch) 

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2014/05/the-iowa-supreme-court-has-dismissed-with-prejudice-a-petition-brought-against-drake-university-law-by-a-student-under-the-am.html

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