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Virginia Office of Protection and Advocacy v. Reinhard Amicus Brief

2010-11 preview of the U.S. Supreme Court

The Fourth Circuit utilized a far-reaching rationale to improperly deny access to federal court. The decision below unduly amplifies the exception to prospective injunctive relief under Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), expansively interpreting the concepts of state sovereignty interests and dignity to immunize states from suit. By so doing, the appellate court's opinion threatens to undermine the supremacy of federal law, not only for civil rights and safety-net statutes but also for a wide-range of federal statutes of great importance to business interests.

The decision below sought to relegate the claims in this case to state court. Yet it is far more likely that Petitioner, the Virginia Office of Protection and Advocacy (“VOPA”), would obtain a just result ensuring the supremacy of federal law in the federal court forum. For resolution of federal issues, federal courts have many structural advantages over state courts, including uniform interpretation and expertise in federal law.

Without access to federal court, the investigative power of federally funded Protection and Advocacy (“P&A”) organizations, such as VOPA, is compromised. P&A organizations are essential to remedying and preventing abuse and neglect of older persons and people with disabilities. Because significant numbers of people with disabilities and older persons, especially those in institutional facilities, are at risk for abuse and neglect, the court should not limit court access for VOPA to enforce its right to investigate abuse and neglect.

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