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Josephine Okwu v. Cindy Mckim

June 12, 2012

JOSEPHINE OKWU, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CINDY MCKIM; JUDITH SMITH; DAVE SCHAEFER; ANNE STAUSBOLL; PETER
H. MIXON; RORY J. COFFEY; DONNA
RAMEL LUM, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California Garland E. Burrell, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No.2:10-cv-00653- GEB-GGH

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Clifton, Circuit Judge:

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Argued and Submitted May 14, 2012-San Francisco, California

Before: Stephen Reinhardt, Richard R. Clifton, and N. Randy Smith, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge Clifton

OPINION

This appeal presents the issue of whether a state employee may sue state officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111-12117. The defendants in this case determined that Plaintiff Josephine Okwu's psychological disor-ders made her unfit for reinstatement from disability retirement to active service with the California Department of Transportation ("Caltrans"). Okwu alleges that this decision deprived her of her right to a reasonable accommodation under the ADA and to the equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. We conclude that Congress's inclusion of a comprehensive remedial scheme in Title I of the ADA precludes § 1983 claims predicated on alleged violations of ADA Title I substantive rights. We also conclude that Okwu's allegations of fact do not state a claim under the Equal Protection Clause. We therefore affirm.

I. Background

Okwu suffers from severe psychological disorders, including bipolar disorder, psychosis, and schizoaffective disorder. These disorders led to strife between Okwu and Caltrans, her employer. Caltrans wanted to terminate Okwu's employment; Okwu alleged that she had been improperly passed over for promotion and harassed. As part of a negotiated settlement of this conflict, Okwu applied for and received disability retirement status from the California Public Employees Retirement System ("CalPERS").

The settlement allowed Okwu to seek reinstatement to active employment. Okwu did, and a new round of administrative proceedings followed, culminating in a 2008 hearing before a California administrative law judge. Based on testimony from Okwu and several doctors, the ALJ decided that despite Okwu's praiseworthy "efforts to gain control of her illness," Okwu "remain[ed] substantially incapacitated from the performance of her usual and customary duties" as a Caltrans Accounting Officer. The CalPERS Board of Administration adopted the ALJ's decision.

Okwu challenged this decision in state court, but that effort was ultimately unsuccessful. She also wanted to sue CalPERS and Caltrans in federal court under the ADA, but she believed the Eleventh Amendment prevented her from doing so. Accordingly, she instead brought claims under § 1983 for deprivation of ADA and Equal Protection rights against the defendants, each of whom is an employee of CalPERS or Caltrans alleged to have participated in the denial of Okwu's request for reinstatement. Okwu sought both money damages and injunctive and declaratory relief.

The district court held that Okwu's complaint failed to state a claim on which relief might be granted, and dismissed with prejudice under Rule ...


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