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Supreme Court Votes 5-4, Upholds States' Rights

Aired February 21, 2001 - 4:26 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. Supreme Court invoked states' rights today in restricting the use of a tool that has been used to combat discrimination against the disabled. By a vote of five to four, the court ruled Congress was wrong in subjecting states to federal monetary damages under the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. CNN legal analyst Roger Cossack joins us for more from Washington.

Roger, we are glad that you are with us. It's a little bit complicated; what is this federal damages?

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is a somewhat complicated case. Let me see if I can clear it for you. What this is about, is whether or not the states can be in sued in federal court and the 11th Amendment to the Constitution says, they can't. That is, can you sue under the ADA, can you sue a state in federal court under the aid to the disability act?

But you can override that 11th Amendment. Congress can override that 11th Amendment if they show evidence, or if they show that the 14th Amendment. This is where it gets tricky -- due process -- that amendment is being violated, and what the court made in a 5-4 decision was, the Congress did not show enough evidence that the 14th Amendment, the due process amendment, was being violated.

In fact, they said they only put forth minimal evidence that the states were violating the ADA Act, and therefore, they could not be held and that states, therefore, could not be sued in federal court.

And if I just might add, a very interesting sideline here: the decision was 5-4 and it was that same, and this is the case that upholds state's rights. It was the same 5-4, by the way, in the Gore decision that was against the state's rights so it goes to show you that, depending on what the subject is, you can get those 5 either way.

FRAZIER: Roger, thank you for that. We were wondering who voted for what. Thank you very much for those insights.

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