One of us is reading this wrong
There was a Supreme Court ruling recently that disabled people can sue their state gov't over access to courthouses. AP reporting via NY Times:
The [5-4] majority ruled that access to courts and the services they provide is a basic right, and the act properly gives private citizens such as [George] Lane the power to sue for damages if a state fails to live up to that promise.
The decision means Lane can return to a lower court in Tennessee, where he sought up to $100,000 in damages.
2 days later...Brian Doherty speaking on it in a Reason.com article:
The case turned on the definition and application of the words "proportional and congruent." Precedent had it that Congress has the power to abrogate the state's 11th Amendment right not to be sued if it does so in protection of 14th Amendment rights to equal treatment under the law, but only if the laws it passes to do so are "proportional and congruent" to the right allegedly violated. (emphasis mine)
"The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another state, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state."
"citizens of another state"...Was George Lane a citizen of a state other than Tennessee?
Unless the interpretation has been changed from what it says to include citizens of the state being sued (for which I'd like to hear a reason*), this sounds like, though I worry about the specific reasoning used to reach the conclusion, they got the gist right. Far as I know the man was a resident of Tennessee, and this is only being applied (for now) to a gov't institution. If applied to the homes and businesses of private citizens then there's a problem, since private citizens can pretty much exclude whoever for whatever reason, intentional or not, and as such can't be expected to accomodate people they might not even associate with -- a wheelchair ramp for a private fitness club when they don't plan on having programs designed for the disabled, for example.
Has it really from day one been "citizens can't sue a state gov't, period"? Or is that something brought about later? This sounds like if it were the case then a LOT of past rulings are invalid, simply because they involved a state.
(* - IMO if citizens can't even sue their own state gov't then that suggests a barrier of emergency unaccountability if the normal routes of expressing public opinion are neutered by other rules or procedures, whether unintentionally or deliberate. If this process is being abused then deal with it, truly frivilous lawsuits can be thrown out, it just takes judges w/ the stones to do it.)