PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin

PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin

Litigants=PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin
ArgueDate=January 17
DecideDate=May 29
FullName=PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin
Prior=Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Subsequent=204 F. 3d 994, affirmed.
Holding=The PGA Tour is required to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act
JoinMajority=Rehnquist, O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer
LawsApplied=Americans with Disabilities Act

"PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin", 532 U.S. 661 (2001), was a Supreme Court case in which handicapped golfer Casey Martin asserted that the PGA Tour could not lawfully deny him the option to ride in a golf cart between shots. Prior to this case, the PGA Tour required all golfers to walk between shots, and argued that this policy constituted an important aspect of the game of golf. The Supreme Court found for Martin in a 7-2 decision.


The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Martin in a 7-2 decision.


The case is principally memorable for its dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia, which included a section which ran:

:If one assumes, however, that the PGA TOUR has some legal obligation to play classic, Platonic golf–and if one assumes the correctness of all the other wrong turns the Court has made to get to this point–then we Justices must confront what is indeed an awesome responsibility. It has been rendered the solemn duty of the Supreme Court of the United States, laid upon it by Congress in pursuance of the Federal Government’s power “ [t] o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States,” to decide What Is Golf. I am sure that the Framers of the Constitution, aware of the 1457 edict of King James II of Scotland prohibiting golf because it interfered with the practice of archery, fully expected that sooner or later the paths of golf and government, the law and the links, would once again cross, and that the judges of this august Court would some day have to wrestle with that age-old jurisprudential question, for which their years of study in the law have so well prepared them: Is someone riding around a golf course from shot to shot really a golfer? The answer, we learn, is yes. The Court ultimately concludes, and it will henceforth be the Law of the Land, that walking is not a “fundamental” aspect of golf.

The dissent concludes with:

:Complaints about this case are not “properly directed to Congress,” ante, at 27-28, n. 51. They are properly directed to this Court’s Kafkaesque determination that professional sports organizations, and the fields they rent for their exhibitions, are “places of public accommodation” to the competing athletes, and the athletes themselves “customers” of the organization that pays them; its Alice in Wonderland determination that there are such things as judicially determinable “essential” and “nonessential” rules of a made-up game; and its Animal Farm determination that fairness and the ADA mean that everyone gets to play by individualized rules which will assure that no one’s lack of ability (or at least no one’s lack of ability so pronounced that it amounts to a disability) will be a handicap. The year was 2001, and “everybody was finally equal.” K. Vonnegut, Harrison Bergeron, in Animal Farm and Related Readings 129 (1997).

In 2004, this dissent was nominated by popular blog [ The Volokh Conspiracy] as one of the funniest Supreme Court decisions written thus far.

Its valuable to also note the reasons for Scalia's dissent, not just the wit. [ Link to SCOTUS Opinion] . From his dissent, the core of the argument is ADA has 3 titles (Title 1: Discrimination by Employers with 15 or more employees, 2: Govt discrimination, 3: Public accommodation discrimination). He said Martin tried to argue under both Titles 1 and 3. The district court said no on Title 1 as he is an independent contractor, not an employee of PGA. Therefore it becomes the question of public accommodation. On that, his argument is public accommodation is about a service or entitlement consumers can rightfully expect/demand. The quote from the decision:

:The provision of Title III at issue here (§12182, its principal provision) is a public-accommodation law, and it is the traditional understanding of public-accommodation laws that they provide rights for customers. "At common law, innkeepers, smiths, and others who made profession of a public employment, were prohibited from refusing, without good reason, to serve a customer."

Therefore to grant the protection of the law to Martin, SCOTUS has to apply the idea of a PGA tour player is a customer of the PGA and deserves the public accommodation.

:The Court, for its part, assumes that conclusion for the sake of argument, ante, at 17, but pronounces respondent to be a "customer" of the PGA TOUR or of the golf courses on which it is played. That seems to me quite incredible. The PGA TOUR is a professional sporting event, staged for the entertainment of a live and TV audience, the receipts from whom (the TV audience's admission price is paid by advertisers) pay the expenses of the tour, including the cash prizes for the winning golfers. The professional golfers on the tour are no more "enjoying" (the statutory term) the entertainment that the tour provides, or the facilities of the golf courses on which it is held, than professional baseball players "enjoy" the baseball games in which they play or the facilities of Yankee Stadium. To be sure, professional ballplayers participate in the games, and use the ballfields, but no one in his right mind would think that they are customers of the American League or of Yankee Stadium. They are themselves the entertainment that the customers pay to watch.

So the rules of the PGA tour are not even in question. The question is does the law apply? In reading the law, he is arguing it does not apply. He then states that the even if you grant to Martin that he is a consumer properly demanding the service, the PGA is not obligated to provide the service any differently to this consumer than any other:

:"The common sense of the statute is that the content of the goods or services offered by a place of public accommodation is not regulated. A camera store may not refuse to sell cameras to a disabled person, but it is not required to stock cameras specially designed for such persons. Had Congress purposed to impose so enormous a burden on the retail sector of the economy and so vast a supervisory responsibility on the federal courts, we think it would have made its intention clearer and would at least have imposed some standards. It is hardly a feasible judicial function to decide whether shoestores should sell single shoes to one-legged persons and if so at what price, or how many Braille books the Borders or Barnes and Noble bookstore chains should stock in each of their stores." Doe v. Mutual of Omaha Ins. Co., 179 F. 3d 557, 560 (CA7 1999).

:Since this is so, even if respondent here is a consumer of the "privilege" of the PGA TOUR competition, see ante, at 14, I see no basis for considering whether the rules of that competition must be altered. It is as irrelevant to the PGA TOUR's compliance with the statute whether walking is essential to the game of golf as it is to the shoe store's compliance whether "pairness" is essential to the nature of shoes. If a shoe store wishes to sell shoes only in pairs it may; and if a golf tour (or a golf course) wishes to provide only walk-around golf, it may. The PGA TOUR cannot deny respondent access to that game because of his disability, but it need not provide him a game different (whether in its essentials or in its details) from that offered to everyone else.

Lastly, he includes his personal comment about goodness of the outcome vs appropriateness of the court’s involvement and decision and potential for unintended consequences here:

:My belief that today's judgment is clearly in error should not be mistaken for a belief that the PGA TOUR clearly ought not allow respondent to use a golf cart. That is a close question, on which even those who compete in the PGA TOUR are apparently divided; but it is a different question from the one before the Court. Just as it is a different question whether the Little League ought to give disabled youngsters a fourth strike, or some other waiver from the rules that makes up for their disabilities. In both cases, whether they ought to do so depends upon (1) how central to the game that they have organized (and over whose rules they are the master) they deem the waived provision to be, and (2) how competitive—how strict a test of raw athletic ability in all aspects of the competition—they want their game to be. But whether Congress has said they must do so depends upon the answers to the legal questions I have discussed above—not upon what this Court sententiously decrees to be "decent, tolerant, [and] progressive," ante, at 13 (quoting Board of Trustees of Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 531 U. S. 356, 375 (2001) (Kennedy, J., concurring)).

:And it should not be assumed that today's decent, tolerant, and progressive judgment will, in the long run, accrue to the benefit of sports competitors with disabilities. Now that it is clear courts will review the rules of sports for "fundamentalness," organizations that value their autonomy have every incentive to defend vigorously the necessity of every regulation. They may still be second-guessed in the end as to the Platonic requirements of the sport, but they will assuredly lose if they have at all wavered in their enforcement. The lesson the PGA TOUR and other sports organizations should take from this case is to make sure that the same written rules are set forth for all levels of play, and never voluntarily to grant any modifications. The second lesson is to end open tryouts. I doubt that, in the long run, even disabled athletes will be well served by these incentives that the Court has created.

External links

* [ PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin Opinion]
*cite news | title=Supreme Court says Martin can use cart on tour | url= | | date=2001-05-29 | accessdate=2008-05-27
*cite news | title=Supreme Court upholds earlier Martin ruling | url= | publisher=ESPN | date=2001-06-01 | accessdate=2008-05-27

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