Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman


No. 79-1404 Argued: December 8, 1980 --- Decided: April 20, 1981 [*]
JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

At issue in these cases is the scope and meaning of the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 1975, 89 Stat. 486, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 6000 et seq. (1976 ed. and Supp. III). The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that the Act created substantive rights in favor of the mentally retarded, that those rights were judicially enforceable, and that conditions at the Pennhurst State School and Hospital (Pennhurst), a facility for the care and treatment of the mentally retarded, violated those rights. For the reasons stated below, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and remand the cases for further proceedings.


The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania owns and operates Pennhurst. Pennhurst is a large institution, housing approximately 1,200 residents. Seventy-five percent of the residents are either "severely" or "profoundly" retarded -- that is, with an IQ of less than 35 -- and a number of the residents [p6] are also physically handicapped. About half of its residents were committed there by court order, and half by a parent or other guardian.

In 1974, respondent Terri Lee Halderman, a minor retarded resident of Pennhurst, filed suit in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of herself and all other Pennhurst residents against Pennhurst, its superintendent, and various officials of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania responsible for the operation of Pennhurst (hereafter petitioners). The additional respondents (hereinafter, with respondent Halderman, referred to as respondents) in these cases -- other mentally retarded persons, the United States, and the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens (PARC) -- subsequently intervened as plaintiffs. PARC added several surrounding counties as defendants, alleging that they were responsible for the commitment of persons to Pennhurst.

As amended in 1975, the complaint alleged, inter alia, that conditions at Pennhurst were unsanitary, inhumane, and dangerous. Specifically, the complaint averred that these conditions denied the class members due process and equal protection of the law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, inflicted on them cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, and denied them certain rights conferred by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 87 Stat. 355, as amended, 29 U.S.C. 701 et seq. (1976 ed. and Supp. III), the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 6001 et seq. (1976 ed. and Supp. III), and the Pennsylvania Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966, Pa.Stat.Ann., Tit. 50, §§ 4101-4704 (Purdon 1969). In addition to seeking injunctive and monetary relief, the complaint urged that Pennhurst be closed and that "community living arrangements" [n1] be established for its residents. [p7]

The District Court certified a class consisting of all persons who have been or may become residents of Pennhurst. After a 32-day trial, it issued an opinion, reported at 446 F.Supp. 1295 (1977), making findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect to the conditions at Pennhurst. Its findings of fact are undisputed: conditions at Pennhurst are not only dangerous, with the residents often physically abused or drugged by staff members, but also inadequate for the "habilitation" of the retarded. [n2] Indeed, the court found that the physical, intellectual, and emotional skills of some residents have deteriorated at Pennhurst. Id. at 1308-1310.

The District Court went on to hold that the mentally retarded have a federal constitutional right to be provided with "minimally adequate habilitation" in the "least restrictive environment," regardless of whether they were voluntarily or involuntarily committed. Id. at 1314-1320. The court also held that there existed a constitutional right to "be free from harm" under the Eighth Amendment, and to be provided with "nondiscriminatory habilitation" under the Equal Protection Clause. Id. at 1320-1322. In addition, it found that § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794 and § 201 of the Pennsylvania Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966, Pa.Stat.Ann., Tit. 50, § 4201 (Purdon 1969), provided a right to minimally adequate habilitation in the least restrictive environment.

Each of these rights was found to have been violated by the conditions existing at Pennhurst. Indeed, the court held that a large institution such as Pennhurst could not provide adequate habilitation. 446 F.Supp. at 1318. It thus ordered [p8] that Pennhurst eventually be closed, that suitable "community living arrangements" be provided for all Pennhurst residents, that plans for the removal of residents from Pennhurst be submitted to the court, that individual treatment plans be developed for each resident with the participation of his or her family, and that conditions at Pennhurst be improved in the interim. The court appointed a Special Master to supervise the implementation of this order. Id. at 1326-1329.

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit substantially affirmed the District Court's remedial order. 612 F.2d 84 (1979) (en banc). Unlike the District Court, however, the Court of Appeals sought to avoid the constitutional claims raised by respondents, and instead rested its order on a construction of the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 6000 et seq. (1976 ed. and Supp. III). [n3] It found that § 111(1) and (2) of the Act, 89 Stat. 502, 42 U.S.C. §§ 6010(1) and(2), the "bill of rights" provision, grant to mentally retarded persons a right to "appropriate treatment, services, and habilitation" in "the setting that is least restrictive of . . . personal liberty." The [p9] court further held that, under the test articulated in Cort v. Ash, 422 U.S. 66, 78 (1975), mentally retarded persons have an implied cause of action to enforce that right. 612 F.2d at 97. Because the court found that Congress enacted the statute pursuant to both § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment [n4] and the spending power, [n5] it declined to consider whether a statute enacted pursuant to the spending power alone "could ever provide the predicate for private substantive rights." Id. at 9. As an alternative ground, the court affirmed the District Court's holding that Pennhurst residents have a state statutory right to adequate "habilitation."

The court concluded that the conditions at Pennhurst violated these federal and state statutory rights. As to relief, it affirmed the order of the District Court except insofar as it ordered Pennhurst to be closed. Although the court concluded that "deinstitutionalization is the favored approach to habilitation" in the least restrictive environment, it did not construe the Act to require the closing of large institutions like Pennhurst. Id. at 115. The court thus remanded the case to the District Court for "individual determinations by the court, or by the Special Master, as to the appropriateness of an improved Pennhurst for each such patient," and instructed the District Court or the Master to "engage in a presumption in favor of placing individuals in [community living arrangements]." Id. at 114-115. [n6] [p10]

Three judges dissented. Although they assumed that the majority was correct in holding that Pennhurst residents have a right to treatment under the Act and an implied cause of action under the Act to enforce that right, they disagreed that the Act imposed a duty on the defendants to provide the "least restrictive treatment" possible. The dissent stated that

the language and structure of the Act, the relevant regulations, and the legislative history all indicate that the States may consider their own resources in providing less restrictive treatment.

Id. at 119. It did not believe that the general findings and declarations contained in a funding statute designed to encourage a course of conduct could be used by the federal courts to create absolute obligations on the States. [n7] We granted certiorari to consider petitioners' several challenges to the decision below. 447 U.S. 904. Petitioners first contend that 42 U.S.C. § 6010 does not create in favor of the mentally retarded any substantive rights to "appropriate treatment" in the "least restrictive" environment. Assuming that Congress did intend to create such a right, petitioners question the authority of Congress to impose these affirmative obligations on the States under either its spending power or § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. Petitioners next assert that any rights created by the Act are enforceable in federal court only by the Federal Government, not by private parties. [p11] Finally, petitioners argue that the court below read the scope of any rights created by the Act too broadly, and far exceeded its remedial powers in requiring the Commonwealth to move its residents to less restrictive environments and create individual habilitation plans for the mentally retarded. Because we agree with petitioners' first contention -- that § 6010 simply does not create substantive rights -- we find it unnecessary to address the remaining issues.


We turn first to a brief review of the general structure of the Act. It is a federal-state grant program whereby the Federal Government provides financial assistance to participating States to aid them in creating programs to care for and treat the developmentally disabled. Like other federal-state cooperative programs, the Act is voluntary, and the States are given the choice of complying with the conditions set forth in the Act or forgoing the benefits of federal funding. See generally King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309 (1968); Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397 (1970); Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297 (1980). The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has elected to participate in the program. The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the agency responsible for administering the Act, has approved Pennsylvania's state plan, and, in 1976, disbursed to Pennsylvania approximately $1.6 million. Pennhurst itself receives no federal funds from Pennsylvania's allotment under the Act, though it does receive approximately $6 million per year in Medicaid funds.

The Act begins with an exhaustive statement of purposes. 42 U.S.C. § 6000(b)(1) (1976 ed., Supp. III). The "overall purpose" of the Act, as amended in 1978, is:

[T]o assist [the] states to assure that persons with developmental disabilities receive the care treatment. and other services necessary to enable them to achieve their [p12] maximum potential through a system which coordinates, monitors, plans, and evaluates those services and which ensures the protection of the legal and human rights of persons with developmental disabilities.

(Emphasis supplied.) As set forth in the margin, the "specific purposes" of the Act are to "assist" and financially "support" various activities necessary to the provision of comprehensive services to the developmentally disabled. § 6000(b)(2) (1976 ed., Supp. III). [n8]

The Act next lists a variety of conditions for the receipt of federal funds. Under § 6005, for example, the Secretary, "as a condition of providing assistance," shall require that "each recipient of such assistance take affirmative action" to hire qualified handicapped individuals. Each State, in turn, shall, "as a condition" of receiving assistance, submit to the Secretary a plan to evaluate the services provided under the Act. § 6009. Each State shall also, "as a condition" of receiving assistance,

provide the Secretary satisfactory assurances [p13] that each program . . . which receives funds from the State's allotment . . . has in effect for each developmentally disabled person who receives services from or under the program a habilitation plan.

§ 6011(a) (1976 ed., Supp. III). And § 6012(a) (1976 ed., Supp. III) conditions aid on a State's promise to "have in effect a system to protect and advocate the rights of persons with developmental disabilities."

At issue here, of course, is § 6010, the "bill of rights" provision. It states in relevant part:

Congress makes the following findings respecting the rights of persons with developmental disabilities:

(1) Persons with developmental disabilities have a right to appropriate treatment, services, and habilitation for such disabilities.

(2) The treatment, services, and habilitation for a person with developmental disabilities should be designed to maximize the developmental potential of the person and should be provided in the setting that is least restrictive of the person's personal liberty.

(3) The Federal Government and the States both have an obligation to assure that public funds are not provided to any institutio[n] . . . that -- (A) does not provide treatment, services, and habilitation which is appropriate to the needs of such person; or (B) does not meet the following minimum standards. . . .

Noticeably absent from § 6010 is any language suggesting that § 6010 is a "condition" for the receipt of federal funding under the Act. Section 6010 thus stands in sharp contrast to §§ 6005, 6009, 6011, and 6012.

The enabling parts of the Act are the funding sections. 42 U.S. C §§ 6061-6063 (1976 ed. and Supp. III). [n9] Those sections describe how funds are to be allotted to the States, require [p14] that any State desiring financial assistance submit an overall plan satisfactory to the Secretary of HHS, and require that funds disbursed under the Act be used in accordance with the approved state plan. To be approved by the Secretary, the state plan must comply with several specific conditions set forth in § 6063. It, inter alia, must provide for the establishment of a State Planning Council, § 6063(b)(1), and set out specific objectives to be achieved under the plan, § 6063(b)(2)(A) (1976 ed., Supp. III). Services furnished under the plan must be consistent with standards prescribed by the Secretary, § 6063(b)(5)(A)(i) (1976 ed., Supp. III), and be provided in an individual manner consistent with § 6011. § 6063(b)(5)(B) (1976 ed., Supp. III). The plan must also be supported by assurances that any program receiving assistance is protecting the human rights of the disabled consistent with § 6010, § 6063(b)(5)(C) (1976 ed., Supp. III). [n10] Each State must also require its State Planning Council to serve as an advocate of persons with developmental disabilities. § 6067 (1976 ed. and Supp. III).

The Act further provides procedures and sanctions to ensure state compliance with its requirements. The Secretary may, of course, disapprove a state plan, § 6063(c). If a State fails to satisfy the requirements of § 6063, the Secretary may terminate or reduce the federal grant. § 6065 (1976 ed., Supp. III). Any State dissatisfied with the Secretary's disapproval of the plan, or his decision to terminate funding, may appeal to the federal courts of appeals. § 6068. No other cause of action is recognized in the Act. [p15]


As support for its broad remedial order, the Court of Appeals found that 42 U.S.C. § 6010 created substantive rights in favor of the disabled and imposed an obligation on the States to provide, at their own expense, certain kinds of treatment. The initial question before us, then, is one of statutory construction: did Congress intend in § 6010 to create enforceable rights and obligations?


In discerning congressional intent, we necessarily turn to the possible sources of Congress' power to legislate, namely, Congress' power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment and its power under the Spending Clause to place conditions on the grant of federal funds. Although the court below held that Congress acted under both powers, the respondents themselves disagree on this point. The Halderman respondents argue that § 6010 was enacted pursuant to § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. Accordingly, they assert that § 6010 is mandatory on the States, regardless of their receipt of federal funds. The Solicitor General, in contrast, concedes that Congress acted pursuant to its spending power alone. Tr. of Oral Arg. 54. Thus, in his view, § 6010 only applies to those States which accept federal funds. [n11]

Although this Court has previously addressed issues going to Congress' power to secure the guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment, Katzenbach v. Morgan, 384 U.S. 641, 651 (1966); Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112 (1970); Fitzpatrick [p16] v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445 (1975), [n12] we have had little occasion to consider the appropriate test for determining when Congress intends to enforce those guarantees. Because such legislation imposes congressional policy on a State involuntarily, and because it often intrudes on traditional state authority, we should not quickly attribute to Congress an unstated intent to act under its authority to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment. Our previous cases are wholly consistent with that view, since Congress in those cases expressly articulated its intent to legislate pursuant to § 5. See Katzenbach v. Morgan, supra, (intent expressly stated in the Voting Rights Act of 1965); Oregon v. Mitchell, supra (intent expressly stated in the Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1970); Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, supra (intent expressly stated in both the House and Senate Reports of the 1972 Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964); cf. South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301 (1966) (intent to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment expressly stated in the Voting Rights Act of 1965). Those cases, moreover, involved statutes which simply prohibited certain kinds of state conduct. The case for inferring intent is at its weakest where, as here, the rights asserted impose affirmative obligations on the States to fund certain [p17] services, since we may assume that Congress will not implicitly attempt to impose massive financial obligations on the States.

Turning to Congress' power to legislate pursuant to the spending power, our cases have long recognized that Congress may fix the terms on which it shall disburse federal money to the States. See, e.g., Oklahoma v. CSC, 330 U.S. 127 (1947); King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309 (1968); Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397 (1970). Unlike legislation enacted under § 5, however, legislation enacted pursuant to the spending power is much in the nature of a contract: in return for federal funds, the States agree to comply with federally imposed conditions. The legitimacy of Congress' power to legislate under the spending power thus rests on whether the State voluntarily and knowingly accepts the terms of the "contract." See Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, 301 U.S. 548, 585-598 (1937); Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297 (1980). There can, of course, be no knowing acceptance if a State is unaware of the conditions or is unable to ascertain what is expected of it. Accordingly, if Congress intends to impose a condition on the grant of federal moneys, it must do so unambiguously. [n13] Cf. Employees v. Department of Public Health and Welfare, 411 U.S. 279, 285 (1973); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974). 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.

Indeed, in those instances where Congress has intended the States to fund certain entitlements as a condition of receiving [p18] federal funds, it has proved capable of saying so explicitly. See, e.g., King v. Smith, supra, at 333 (Social Security Act creates a "federally imposed obligation [on the States] to furnish ‘aid to families with dependent children . . . with reasonable promptness to all eligible individuals,'" quoting the Act). We must carefully inquire, then, whether Congress in § 6010 imposed an obligation on the States to spend state money to fund certain rights as a condition of receiving federal moneys under the Act, or whether it spoke merely in precatory terms.


Applying those principles to these cases, we find nothing in the Act or its legislative history to suggest that Congress intended to require the States to assume the high cost of providing "appropriate treatment" in the "least restrictive environment" to their mentally retarded citizens.

There is virtually no support for the lower court's conclusion that Congress created rights and obligations pursuant to its power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment. The Act nowhere states that that is its purpose. Quite the contrary, the Act's language and structure demonstrate that it is a mere federal-state funding statute. The explicit purposes of the Act are simply "to assist" the States through the use of federal grants to improve the care and treatment of the mentally retarded. § 6000(b) (1976 ed., Supp. III). Nothing in either the "overall" or "specific" purposes of the Act reveals an intent to require the States to fund new, substantive rights. Surely Congress would not have established such elaborate funding incentives had it simply intended to impose absolute obligations on the States.

Respondents nonetheless insist that the fact that § 6010 speaks in terms of "rights" supports their view. Their reliance is misplaced.

"In expounding a statute, we must not be guided by a single sentence or member of a sentence, but look to the provisions of the whole law and to its object and policy."

Philbrook v. Glodgett, 421 U.S. 707, 713 (1975), [p19] quoting United States v. Heirs of Boisdore, 8 How. 113, 122 (1849). See District of Columbia v. Carter, 409 U.S. 418, 420 (1973). Contrary to respondents' assertion, the specific language and the legislative history of § 6010 are ambiguous. We are persuaded that 6010, when read in the context of other more specific provisions of the Act, does no more than express a congressional preference for certain kinds of treatment. It is simply a general statement of "findings" and, as such, is too thin a reed to support the rights and obligations read into it by the court below. The closest one can come in giving § 6010 meaning is that it justifies and supports Congress' appropriation of money under the Act, and guides the Secretary in his review of state applications for federal funds. See United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144, 152 (1938). [n14] As this Court recognized in Rosado v. Wyman, supra, at 413,

Congress sometimes legislates by innuendo, making declarations of policy and indicating a preference while requiring measures that, though falling short of legislating its goal, serve as a nudge in the preferred directions.

This is such a case. [p20]

The legislative history buttresses our conclusion that Congress intended to encourage, rather than mandate, the provision of better services to the developmentally disabled. The House Committee believed the purpose of the Act was simply to continue an existing federal grant program, designed to promote "effective planning by the states of their programs, initiation of new, needed programs, and filling of gaps among existing efforts." H.R.Rep. No. 94-58, pp. 6, 8-9 (1975). Indeed, as passed by the House, the Act contained no "bill of rights" provision whatsoever. The Committee instead merely "applauded" the efforts of others to secure rights for the developmentally disabled. Id. at 7.

Respondents, however, argue vigorously that the legislative history of the bill as passed by the Senate evinces Congress' intent to impose absolute obligations on the States to fund certain levels of treatment. Respondents rely most heavily on Title II of the Senate bill, which adopted a "Bill of Rights" for the mentally retarded and contained over 400 pages of detailed standards "designed to assist in the protection of the human rights guaranteed under the Constitution." S.Rep. No. 94-160, p. 34 (1975). The Report also noted that the "Federal Government has a responsibility to provide equal protection under the law to all citizens." Id. at 32. And Senator Stafford stated on the Senate floor that

Title II was added to the bill to assist in the protection of the rights guaranteed under our Constitution for those individuals that will require institutionalization.

121 Cong.Rec. 16516 (1975).

Respondents read too much into these scattered bits of legislative history. In the first place, it is by no means clear that even the Senate bill created new substantive rights in favor of the disabled. [n15] Despite the general discussion of [p21] equal protection guarantees in the Senate Report the Committee's view of the Act was quite modest. It explained that the purpose of Title II was simply "to stimulate the States to develop alternative programs of care for mentally retarded." S.Rep. No. 94-160, supra, at 1. It viewed Title II as satisfying the "need for a clear exposition of the purposes for which support should be provided under the authorities of the Act." Id. at 3. Nor are the remarks of various Senators to the contrary. Senator Stafford spoke merely in terms of "assisting" the States. Senator Randolph, in introducing the bill on the floor of the Senate, confirmed the Senate's limited purpose. He said:

[W]e have developed a bill whose thrust, like the 1970 act, is to assist States in developing a comprehensive plan to bring together available resources in a coordinated way so developmentally disabled individuals are appropriately served. Our goal is more thorough and careful planning and more effective evaluation.

121 Cong.Rec. 16514 (1975) (emphasis supplied). Even Senator Javits, the principal proponent of Title II, did not read the Act as establishing new substantive rights to enforce those guaranteed by the Constitution. He explained that Title II

represents a reaffirmation of the basic human and civil rights of all citizens. It offers the direction to provide a valid and realistic framework for improving the overall situation of this country's mentally retarded and other developmentally disabled individuals.

Id. at 16519 (emphasis supplied).

In any event, whatever the Senate's view of its bill, Congress declined to adopt it. The Conference Committee rejected the explicit standards of Title II, and instead compromised [p22] on the more general statement of "findings" in what later became § 6010. H.R.Conf.Rep. No. 94-473, pp. 41, 43 (1975). As Senator Javits noted with respect to the compromise,

Title II of the Conference agreement establishes a clear Federal policy that the mentally retarded have a right to appropriate treatment, services, and habilitation.

121 Cong.Rec. 29820 (1975) (emphasis supplied).

In sum, nothing suggests that Congress intended the Act to be something other than a typical funding statute. [n16] Far from requiring the States to fund newly declared individual rights, the Act has a systematic focus, seeking to improve care to individuals by encouraging better state planning, coordination, and demonstration projects. Much like the Medicaid statute considered in Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297 (1980), the Act at issue here

was designed as a cooperative program of shared responsibilit[ies], not as a device for the Federal Government to compel a State to provide services that Congress itself is unwilling to fund.

Id. at 309.

There remains the contention of the Solicitor General that Congress, acting pursuant to its spending power, conditioned the grant of federal money on the State's agreeing to underwrite the obligations the Court of Appeals read into § 6010. We find that contention wholly without merit. As amply demonstrated above, the "findings" in § 6010, when viewed [p23] in the context of the more specific provisions of the Act, represent general statements of federal policy, not newly created legal duties.

The "plain language" of § 6010 also refutes the Solicitor General's contention. When Congress intended to impose conditions on the grant of federal funds, as in §§ 6005, 6009, 6011, 6012, 6063, and 6067, it proved capable of doing so in clear terms. Section 6010, in marked contrast, in no way suggests that the grant of federal funds is "conditioned" on a State's funding the rights described therein. The existence of explicit conditions throughout the Act, and the absence of conditional language in § 6010, manifest the limited meaning of § 6010.

Equally telling is the fact that the Secretary has specifically rejected the position of the Solicitor General. The purpose of the Act, according to the Secretary, is merely "to improve and coordinate the provision of services to persons with developmental disabilities." 45 CFR § 1385.1 (1979). The Secretary acknowledges that

[n]o authority was included in [the 1975] Act to allow the Department to withhold funds from States on the basis of failure to meet the findings [of § 6010].

45 Fed.Reg. 31006 (1980). If funds cannot be terminated for a State's failure to comply with § 6010, § 6010 can hardly be considered a "condition" of the grant of federal funds. [n17] The Secretary's interpretation of § 6010, moreover, is well supported by the legislative history. In reaching [p24] the compromise on § 6010, the Conference Committee rejected the Senate's proposal to terminate federal funding of States which failed to comply with the standards enumerated in Title II of the Senate's bill, see n. 15, supra. By eliminating that sanction, Congress made clear that the provisions of § 6010 were intended to be hortatory, not mandatory. [n18]

The fact that Congress granted to Pennsylvania only $1.6 million in 1976, a sum woefully inadequate to meet the enormous financial burden of providing "appropriate" treatment in the "least restrictive" setting, confirms that Congress must have had a limited purpose in enacting § 6010. When Congress does impose affirmative obligations on the States, it usually makes a far more substantial contribution to defray costs. Harris v. McRae, supra. It defies common sense, in short, to suppose that Congress implicitly imposed this massive obligation on participating States.

Our conclusion is also buttressed by the rule of statutory construction established above, that Congress must express clearly its intent to impose conditions on the grant of federal funds so that the States can knowingly decide whether or not to accept those funds. That canon applies with greatest force where, as here, a State's potential obligations under the Act are largely indeterminate. It is difficult to know what [p25] is meant by providing "appropriate treatment" in the "least restrictive" setting, and it is unlikely that a State would have accepted federal funds had it known it would be bound to provide such treatment. The crucial inquiry, however, is not whether a State would knowingly undertake that obligation, but whether Congress spoke so clearly that we can fairly say that the State could make an informed choice. In this case, Congress fell well short of providing clear notice to the States that they, by accepting funds under the Act, would indeed be obligated to comply with § 6010. Not only does § 6010 lack conditional language, but it strains credulity to argue that participating States should have known of their "obligations" under § 6010 when the Secretary of HHS, the governmental agency responsible for the administration of the Act and the agency with which the participating States have the most contact, has never understood § 6010 to impose conditions on participating States. Though Congress' power to legislate under the spending power is broad, it does not include surprising participating States with post-acceptance or "retroactive" conditions.

Finally, a brief comparison of the general language of § 6010 with the conditions Congress explicitly imposed on the States demonstrates that Congress did not intend to place either absolute or conditional obligations on the States. The Court of Appeals, for example, read § 6010 to impose an obligation to provide habilitation plans for all developmentally disabled persons. But Congress required habilitation plans under § 6011

only when the Federal assistance under the Act contributes a portion of the cost of the habilitation services to the developmentally disabled person.

H.R.Conf.Rep. No. 9473, p. 43 (1975). If the Court of Appeals were correct, of course, there would be no purpose for Congress to have required habilitation plans at all, or to have limited the requirement to certain programs, since such plans automatically would have been mandated in all programs by the more inclusive requirements of § 6010. [p26]

Second, the specific condition imposed in § 6063(b)(5)(C) (1976 ed., Supp. III) requires each state plan to

contain or be supported by assurances satisfactory to the Secretary that the human rights of all persons with developmental disabilities . . . who are receiving treatment, services, or habilitation, under programs assisted under this chapter will be protected consistent with section 6010 of this title (relating to rights of the developmentally disabled).

Once again, these limitations -- both as to programs assisted under the Act and as to affording protection in a manner that is "consistent with § 6010" -- would be unnecessary if, as the court below ruled, all state programs were required to fund the rights described in § 6010.

And third, the court below held that § 6010 mandated deinstitutionalization for most, if not all, mentally retarded persons. As originally enacted in 1975, however, the Act required only that each State use not less than 30 percent of its allotment

for the purpose of assisting it in developing and implementing plans designed to eliminate inappropriate placement in institutions of persons with developmental disabilities.

§ 6062(a)(4). [n19] Three years later, Congress relieved the States of even that modest duty. Instead of requiring the States to use a certain portion of their allotment to support deinstitutionalization, Congress required the States to concentrate their efforts in at least one of four areas. only one of which was "community living arrangements." § 6063(b)(4)(A)(ii) (1976 ed., Supp. III). Had § 6010 created a right to deinstitutionalization, the policy choices contemplated [p27] by both the 1975 and 1978 provisions would be meaningless.

In sum, the court below failed to recognize the well-settled distinction between congressional "encouragement" of state programs and the imposition of binding obligations on the States. Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297 (1980). Relying on that distinction, this Court, in Southeastern Community College v. Davis, 442 U.S. 397 (1979), rejected a claim that § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which bars discrimination against handicapped persons in federally funded programs, obligates schools to take affirmative steps to eliminate problems raised by an applicant's hearing disability. Finding that "state agencies such as Southeastern are only ‘encourage[d] . . . to adopt and implement such policies and procedures,'" id. at 410 (quoting the Act), we stressed that

Congress understood [that] accommodation of the needs of handicapped individuals may require affirmative action, and knew how to provide for it in those instances where it wished to do so.

Id. at 411. Likewise, in this case, Congress was aware of the need of developmentally disabled persons, and plainly understood the difference, financial and otherwise, between encouraging a specified type of treatment and mandating it.


Respondents also suggest that they may bring suit to compel compliance with those conditions which are contained in the Act. Of particular relevance to these cases are § 6011(a) (1976 ed., Supp. III) and § 6063(b)(5)(C) (1976 ed., Supp. III), which are quoted supra, at 12-13, 26. [n20]

That claim raises several issues. First, it must be determined whether respondents have a private cause of action [p28] to compel state compliance with those conditions. [n21] In legislation enacted pursuant to the spending power, the typical remedy for state noncompliance with federally imposed conditions is not a private cause of action for noncompliance, but rather action by the Federal Government to terminate funds to the State. See § 6065 (1976 ed., Supp. III). Just last Term, however, in Maine v. Thiboutot, 448 U.S. 1 (1980), we held that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a cause of action for state deprivations of "rights secured" by "the laws" of the United States. See 448 U.S. at 4. Whether Thiboutot controls these cases depends on two factors. First, respondents here, unlike the plaintiffs in Thiboutot, who alleged that state law prevented them from receiving federal funds to which they were entitled, can only claim that the state plan has not provided adequate "assurances" to the Secretary. It is at least an open question whether an individual's interest in having a State provide those "assurances" is a "right secured" by the laws of the United States within the meaning of § 1983. Second, JUSTICE POWELL, in dissent in Thiboutot, suggested that § 1983 would not be available where the "governing statute provides an exclusive remedy for violations of its terms." Id. at 22, n. 11. It is unclear whether the express remedy contained in this Act is exclusive.

Second, it is not at all clear that the Pennhurst petitioners have violated § 6011 and § 6063(b)(5)(C) (1976 ed. and Supp. III). Those sections, by their terms, only refer to "programs assisted" under the Act. Because Pennhurst does not receive federal funds under the Act, it is arguably not a "program assisted." Thus, there may be no obligation on the State under § 6011 to assure the Secretary that each resident of Pennhurst have a habilitation plan, or assure the Secretary [p29] under § 6063(b)(5)(C) that Pennhurst residents are being provided services consistent with § 6010. [n22]

Third, there is the question of remedy. Respondents' relief may well be limited to enjoining the Federal Government from providing funds to the Commonwealth. As we stated in Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. at 420, welfare claimants were

entitled to declaratory relief and an appropriate injunction by the District Court against the payment of federal monies . . . should the State not develop a conforming plan within a reasonable period of time.

(Emphasis in original.) There, we rejected the suggestion that the courts could require the State to pay the additional sums demanded by compliance with federal standards. Relying on King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309 (1968), we explained that "the State had alternative choices of assuming the additional cost" of complying with the federal standard "or not using federal funds." 397 U.S. at 420-421. Accordingly, we remanded the case so that the State could exercise that choice.

In other instances, however, we have implicitly departed from that rule, and have affirmed lower court decisions enjoining a State from enforcing any provisions which conflict with federal law in violation of the Supremacy Clause, e.g., Carleson v. Remillard, 406 U.S. 598 (1972). In still other cases, we have struck down state laws without addressing the form of relief, e.g., Townsend v. Swank, 404 U.S. 282 (1971). In no case, however, have we required a State to provide money to plaintiffs, much less required a State to take on such open-ended and potentially burdensome obligations as providing "appropriate" treatment in the "least restrictive" environment. And because this is a suit in federal court, anything [p30] but prospective relief would pose serious questions under the Eleventh Amendment. Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974). [n23]

These are all difficult questions. Because the Court of Appeals has not addressed these issues, however, we remand the issues for consideration in light of our decision here.


After finding that federal law imposed an obligation on the States to provide treatment, the court below examined state law and found that it too imposed such a requirement. 612 F.2d at 100-103. The court looked to § 4201 of the Pennsylvania Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966, which provides in pertinent part:

The department of [Public Welfare] shall have power, and its duty shall be:

(1) To assure within the State the availability and equitable provision of adequate mental health and mental retardation services for all persons who need them, regardless of religion, race, color, national origin, settlement, residence, or economic or social status.

Pa.Stat.Ann., Tit. 50, § 4201 (Purdon 1969).

Respondents contend that, even if we conclude that relief is unavailable under federal law, state law adequately supports the relief ordered by the Court of Appeals. There are, [p31] however, two difficulties with that argument. First, the lower court's finding that state law provides a right to treatment may well have been colored by its holding with respect to § 6010. Second, the court held only that there is a right to "treatment," not that there is a state right to treatment in the "least restrictive" environment. As such, it is unclear whether state law provides an independent and adequate ground which can support the court's remedial order. Accordingly, we remand the state law issue for reconsideration in light of our decision here. [n24]

For similar reasons, we also remand to the Court of Appeals those issues it did not address, namely, respondents' federal constitutional claims and their claims under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.


Congress in recent years has enacted several laws designed to improve the way in which this Nation treats the mentally retarded. [n25] The Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act is one such law. It establishes a national policy to provide better care and treatment to the retarded and creates funding incentives to induce the States to do so. But the Act does no more than that. We would be attributing [p32] far too much to Congress if we held that it required the States, at their own expense, to provide certain kinds of treatment. Accordingly, we reverse the principal holding of the Court of Appeals and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Reversed and remanded.

* Together with No. 79-1408, Mayor of Philadelphia et al. v. Halderman et al., No. 79-1414, Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens et al. v. Pennhurst State School and Hospital et al., No. 71-1415, Commissioners and Mental Health/Mental Retardation Administrator for Bucks County et al. v. Halderman et al.; and No 79-1489, Pennhurst Parents-Staff Assn. v. Halderman et al., also on certiorari to the same court.

1. "Community living arrangements" are smaller, less isolated residences where retarded persons are treated as much as possible like nonretarded persons.

2. There is a technical difference between "treatment," which applies to curable mental illness, and "habilitation," which consists of education and training for those, such as the mentally retarded, who are not ill. This opinion, like the opinions of the courts below, will use the terms interchangeably.

3. As originally enacted in 1975, the definition of "developmentally disabled" included mental retardation. § 6001(7)(A)(i). As amended in 1978, however, a mentally retarded individual is considered developmentally disabled only if he satisfies various criteria set forth in the Act.

It is perhaps suggestive of the novelty of the Court of Appeals' decision that none of the respondents briefed the Act before the District Court, nor raised it in the Court of Appeals. Rather, the court itself suggested the applicability of the Act and requested supplemental briefs on the issue for the purpose of rehearing en banc. Even then, the United States, which raised only constitutional claims before the District Court, contended merely that the

most significant implication of the Developmentally Disabled Act is the important light which it sheds upon congressional intent about the nature of the rights of institutionalized mentally retarded persons, and the guidance which it may give in discerning a violation of Section 504 [of the Rehabilitation Act].

Supplemental Brief for United States in No. 78-1490 (CA3), p. 2.

4. Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that "[t]he Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article."

5. The spending power is encompassed in Art. I, § 8, cl. 1, of the Constitution, which states that the "Congress shall have the Power To . . . provide for the . . . general Welfare of the United States."

6. The decisions below are somewhat unclear concerning to whom petitioners owe this right of treatment. The District Court certified class of all persons who may become residents of Pennhurst, and the Court of Appeals directed relief for all plaintiffs in the case, including those on Pennhurst's waiting list. Thus, the decisions arguably entitle even those mentally retarded citizens who are not institutionalized or currently receiving services to a "right to treatment."

7. The dissent went on to conclude that neither the Federal Constitution, § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, nor state law required a State to provide treatment in the "least restrictive setting." The dissent would have thus reversed those portions of the District Court's order that contemplated a court order closing Pennhurst and the creation of new less restrictive facilities. It would also have remanded the case to the District Court for it to decide "how best to bring Pennhurst in compliance with statutory and constitutional requirements," and left open

the possibility that certain individuals in the future may be able to show that their particular mode of treatment is not rationally related to the State's purpose in confining them.

612 F.2d at 131.

8. Section 6000(b)(2) provides:

The specific purposes of this chapter are --

(A) to assist in the provision of comprehensive services to persons with developmental disabilities, with priority to those persons whose needs cannot be covered or otherwise met under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 . . . , or other health, education, or welfare programs;

(B) to assist States in appropriate planning activities;

(C) to make grants to States and public and private, nonprofit agencies to establish model programs, to demonstrate innovative habilitation techniques, and to train professional and paraprofessional personnel with respect to providing services to persons with developmental disabilities;

(D) to make grants to university affiliated facilities to assist them in administering and operating demonstration facilities for the provision of services to persons with developmental disabilities, and interdisciplinary training programs for personnel needed to provide specialized services for these persons; and

(E) to make grants to support a system in each State to protect the legal and human rights of all persons with developmental disabilities.

9. Sections 6031-6043 authorize separate funding to university-affiliated facilities for the operation of demonstration and training programs, and are not pertinent here.

10. The provisions of § 6063 were reworded and recodified in 1978. Section 6063(b)(5)(C) (1976 ed., Supp. III) replaced § 133(b)(24) of the Act, as added and renumbered, 89 Stat. 491, 506, 42 U.S.C. § 6063(b)(24), which required a somewhat similar "assurance." The only significant difference between the two provisions is that § 6063(b)(5)(C) contains specific reference to § 6010.

11. The PARC respondents take a somewhat different view. Although they argue that Congress enacted § 6010 under both § 5 and the spending power, they suggest that § 6010 applies only to programs which receive federal money. The PARC respondents are also cross-petitioners in this litigation, arguing that the Act requires Pennhurst to be closed. In their view, the individual placement decisions required by the court below are not authorized by the Act, and, in any event, are an improper exercise of judicial authority.

12. There is, of course, a question whether Congress would have the power to create the rights and obligations found by the court below. Although the court below held that "section 6010 does not go beyond what has been judicially declared to be the limits of the [F]ourteenth [A]mendment," 612 F.2d at 98, this Court has never found that the involuntarily committed have a constitutional "right to treatment," much less the voluntarily committed. See Sanchez v. New Mexico, 396 U.S. 276 (1970), dismissing for want of substantial federal question, 80 N.M. 438, 457 P.2d 370 (1968); O'Connor v. Donaldson, 422 U.S. 563, 587-589 (1975) (BURGER, C.J., concurring). Thus, the Pennhurst petitioners and several amici argues that legislation which purports to create against the States not only a right to treatment, but one in the least restrictive setting, is not "appropriate" legislation within the meaning of § 5. Because we conclude that § 6010 creates no rights whatsoever, we find it unnecessary to consider that question.

13. There are limits on the power of Congress to impose conditions on the States pursuant to its spending power, Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, 301 U.S. at 301 U.S. 585"]585; 585; Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563"]414 U.S. 563, 569 (1974); 414 U.S. 563, 569 (1974); Fullilove v. Klutznick, 448 U.S. 448 (1980) (BURGER, C.J.); see National League of Cities v. Usery, 426 U.S. 833 (1976). Even the Halderman respondents, like the court below, recognize the "constitutional difficulties" with imposing affirmative obligations on the States pursuant to the spending power, Tr. of Oral Arg. 45. That issue, however, is not now before us.

14. Respondents also contend that the title of the Act as passed, rather than as codified, reveals an intent to create rights in favor of the disabled. Pub.L. 94-103, 89 Stat. 486. As passed, the Act contained three Titles. Title I provided for services and facilities to the developmentally disabled, and Title II, entitled "The Establishment and Protection of the Rights of Persons with Developmental Disabilities," contained § 6010. Respondents' reliance on this title is misplaced. It has long been established that the title of an Act "cannot enlarge or confer powers." United States v. Oregon & California R. Co., 164 U.S. 526, 541 (1896); Cornell v. Coyne, 192 U.S. 418, 430 (1904). See United States v. Fisher, 2 Cranch 358, 386 (1805); Yazoo & Mississippi Valley R. Co. v. Thomas, 132 U.S. 174, 188 (1889). In addition, the location of § 6010 in the Act as passed confirms § 6010's limited meaning. Section 6010 was the preamble of Title II, followed by provisions later codified as §§ 6009, 6011, 6012. The congressional findings in § 6010 thus seem to have been designed simply to serve as the rationale for the conditions imposed in the remaining sections of Title II.

15. As originally passed by the Senate, for example, the bill provided that a State which failed to comply with the detailed standards of care enumerated in Title II would lose all federal funding, including that provided under such programs as Medicaid. S. 462, Tit. II, § 206. See S.Rep. No. 94-160, p. 35 (1975). The fact that the Senate would include a funding sanction is, of course, wholly inconsistent with respondents' argument that Congress was acting pursuant to § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

16. Nor is the contrary proved by a 1978 amendment to § 6010 which provides:

The rights of persons with developmental disabilities described in findings made in this section are in addition to any constitutional or other rights otherwise afforded to all persons.

92 Stat. 3007. This provision, adopted in Conference Committee without any legislative history, merely expresses Congress' view that persons with developmental disabilities have rights in addition to those generally available to "all persons." The section recognizes that Congress only "described" rights, not created them. Nothing in the language supports an inference of substantive duties from a statement of congressional policy.

17. To be sure, the Secretary has read the 1978 recodification of § 6063(b)(5)(C) (1976 ed., Supp. III) to require a participating State to assure the Secretary that services in funded programs are being provided consistent with § 6010. 45 Fed.Reg. 31006 (1980). But, as will be discussed infra, even if the Secretary's interpretation of the 1978 recodification is correct, a participating State's obligations under § 6063(b)(5)(C) are far more modest than the obligations read into § 6010 by the court below and urged by the Solicitor General here. It is also important to note that the Secretary, despite his apparent authority to do so, has not terminated funds to Pennsylvania for noncompliance with § 6063(b)(5)(C).

18. The Solicitor General also relies heavily on § 6010(3), quoted supra at 13. He apparently contends that Congress, in § 6010(3), conditioned the grant of all federal funds, including Medicaid, on the participating State's agreement to provide adequate treatment to individuals. Although § 6010(3), unlike §§ 6010(1) and (2), at least speaks in terms of "obligations," we find the Solicitor General's argument ultimately without merit. First, like the other "findings" in § 6010, § 6010(3) is merely an expression of federal policy. As even the Secretary concedes, Congress did not give the Secretary authority to withdraw federal funds on the basis of a State's failure to comply with § 6010(3). Second, by its terms, § 6010(3) states that both the Federal Government and the States should not spend public money for substandard institutions. Nothing reveals an intent to condition the grant of federal funds under the Act on the State's promise to provide appropriate habilitation to individuals.

19. The House Report for example, explained that States were required only to plan "for as much deinstitutionalization as is feasible," recognizing that this requirement would "prompt some movement of patients from State institutions back into their communities." H.R.Rep. No. 94-58, p. 10 (1975).

20. The Court of Appeals was apparently aware of these conditions, since it referred expressly to § 6063(b)(5)(C) in concluding that § 6010 creates a right to treatment. Its error was in bypassing these specific conditions and resting its decision on the more general language of § 6010.

21. Because we conclude that § 6010 confers no substantive rights, we need not reach the question whether there is a private cause of action under that section or under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to enforce those rights. See Southeastern Community College v. Davis, 442 U.S. 397, 404, n. 5 (1979).

22. JUSTICE WHITE concedes that Pennsylvania may not have violated § 6011, since Pennhurst may not be a "program assisted" under the Act. Post at 41-42, n. 7. Curiously, however, he simultaneously assumes that § 6063(b)(5)(C) applies to Pennhurst. Post at 41. Because both § 6011 and § 6063(b)(5)(C) apply only to "programs assisted," I do not understand why § 6063(b)(5)(C), but not § 6011, is applicable.

23. We do not significantly differ with our Brother WHITE on the remedy for failure to comply with federally imposed conditions. Relying on Rosado v. Wyman, he argues that Pennsylvania should be given the option of rejecting federal funds under the Act or complying with § 6010. If we agreed that § 6010 was a condition on the grant of federal funds, we would have little difficulty subscribing to that view. We differ only in that he believes that § 6010 imposes conditions on participating States, while we believe that the relevant conditions to these cases are §§ 6011 and 6063(b)(5)(C). If the court on remand determines that there has been a violation of those conditions, it may well be appropriate to apply the principles announced in Rosado, as JUSTICE WHITE suggests.

24. Respondents have submitted to the Court 10 photocopies of a recent decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court which they characterize as holding that Pennsylvania state law provides a right to "state-funded individualized habilitation services." In re Schmidt, 494 Pa. 86, 429 A.2d 631 (1981). The late submission not only fails to comply with Supreme Court Rule 35.5, it does not affect our decision here. On remand following our reversal, the Court of Appeals will be in a position to consider the state law issues in light of the Pennsylvania's Supreme Court's recent decision.

25. E.g., The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1974 and 1978, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. (1976 ed. and Supp. III); The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1401-1420 ; Social Security Amendments of 1974, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1396d(d) and 1397; Community Mental Health Centers Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2689 et seq.