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The Pennhurst Doctrines And The Lost Disability History Of The "New Federalism", Karen Tani Jun 2022

The Pennhurst Doctrines And The Lost Disability History Of The "New Federalism", Karen Tani

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This Article reconstructs the litigation over an infamous institution for people with disabilities—Pennhurst State School & Hospital—and demonstrates that litigation’s powerful and underappreciated significance for American life and law. It is a tale of two legacies. In U.S. disability history, Halderman v. Pennhurst State School & Hospital is a celebrated case. The 1977 trial court decision recognized a constitutional “right to habilitation” and ordered the complete closure of an overcrowded, dehumanizing facility. For people concerned with present-day mass incarceration, the case retains relevance as an example of court-ordered abolition.

For those outside the world of deinstitutionalization and disability rights, however, …


Foreword: The Disability Frame, Jasmine E. Harris, Karen Tani Jan 2022

Foreword: The Disability Frame, Jasmine E. Harris, Karen Tani

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This essay is the Foreword to the 2022 University of Pennsylvania Law Review symposium on “The Disability Frame.” “The disability frame” refers to the characterization of a particular controversy or problem as being “about” disability, which in turn can imply that disability-focused laws ought to resolve or adjudicate the issue. We see this frame function in at least four ways. First, the disability frame is sometimes invoked as a shield, with the hope that it will insulate someone from the reach of the state or exempt a person from an unwelcome or onerous responsibility (e.g., jury service, vaccination, a criminal …