Suter v. Artist M., 503 U.S. 347 (1992)

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SUTER et al. v. ARTIST M. et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the seventh circuit

No. 90-1488. Argued December 2, 1991—Decided March 25, 1992

The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 provides that a State will be reimbursed by the Federal Government for certain expenses it incurs in administering foster care and adoption services, if it submits a plan for approval by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Among its requisite features, an approved plan must provide that it "shall be in effect in all" of a State's political subdivisions and "be mandatory upon them," 42 U. S. C. 671(a)(3), and that "reasonable efforts will be made" to prevent removal of children from their homes and to facilitate reunification of families where removal has occurred, 671(a)(15). Respondents, child beneficiaries of the Act, sought declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that petitioners, the Director and the Guardianship Administrator of the Illinois agency responsible for investigating charges of child abuse and neglect and providing services for abused and neglected children and their families, had failed to make reasonable efforts to preserve and reunite families, in contravention of 671(a)(15). The District Court denied petitioners' motion to dismiss, holding, inter alia, that the Act contained an implied cause of action and that suit could also be brought under 42 U. S. C. 1983. The court entered an injunction against petitioners, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. That court relied on Wilder v. Virginia Hospital Assn., 496 U. S. 498, to hold that the "reasonable efforts" clause of the Act could be enforced through a 1983 action, and applied the standard of Cort v. Ash, 422 U. S. 66, to find that the Act created an implied right of action entitling respondents to bring suit directly under the Act.

Held: 1. Section 671(a)(15) does not confer on its beneficiaries a private right enforceable in a 1983 action. Pp. 355-364. (a) Section 1983 is not available to enforce a violation of a federal statute where Congress has foreclosed enforcement in the enactment itself and "where the statute did not create enforceable rights, privileges, or immunities within the meaning of 1983." Wright v. Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority, 479 U. S. 418, 423. Congress must confer such rights unambiguously when it intends to impose conditions on the grant of federal moneys. Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 451 U. S. 1, 17. Thus, statutory provisions must


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