Ohio v. United States Department of Education, No. 19-3397 (6th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The 1936 Randolph-Sheppard Vending Stand Act (RSA), 20 U.S.C. 107(a), authorizes blind persons to operate vending facilities on federal property. The Department of Education prescribes RSA regulations and designates the state agency for issuing RSA licenses. Ohio expands the RSA to state properties. Ohio’s Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired (BSVI) implements the RSA and Ohio-RSA.
Cyrus, a blind vendor, has participated in the Ohio RSA program since 1989. Pursuant to Grantor Agreements with Lucas County and the University of Toledo, Cyrus paid $504,000 in commissions to the university and county. In 2014, the Ohio Attorney General issued a formal opinion that conditioning RSA-vending at state-affiliated universities on commission payments was illegal. Cyrus filed a grievance and stopped making payments to the university. BSVI notified the university that the commission requirement "is void.” BSVI denied Cyrus’s grievance and took no action on the county commissions. A state hearing officer denied relief. Cyrus filed an arbitration complaint under the RSA’.
An RSA panel found that BSVI breached its duties by requiring commission payments to both locations The Sixth Circuit held that the RSA prohibits commissions, even for facilities on county-owned properties; prospective relief was appropriate. RSA arbitration panels are enough like civil litigation in Article III courts that sovereign immunity applies. Ohio has not waived its immunity from RSA damages awards imposed by federal arbitration panels. The panel, therefore, exceeded its authority in awarding damages and interest.