United States District Court, D. Maine
METRO TREATMENT OF MAINE, LP d/b/a PENOBSCOT COUNTY METRO TREATMENT CENTER, Plaintiff,
CITY OF BANGOR, Defendant.
ORDER ON THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY
A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
alleges that the City of Bangor violated the Americans with
Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act because Chapter
93 of Bangor's Code of Ordinances is discriminatory on
its face and because the City Council acted on discriminatory
prejudice in denying Plaintiff's permission to expand its
methadone clinic. Plaintiff moves for a preliminary
injunction, enjoining the City of Bangor from enforcing
Chapter 93 against it or ordering the City Council to grant
Plaintiff's application for permission to expand the
clinic without delay. After an analysis of the preliminary
injunction factors, the Court denies the Plaintiff's
motion because it has failed to demonstrate irreparable harm
to itself or its clients.
August 23, 2016, Metro Treatment of Maine, LP d/b/a Penobscot
County Metro Treatment Center (Penobscot Metro) filed a
complaint against the city of Bangor (Bangor) alleging
discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans with
Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq.
(ADA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29
U.S.C. § 701 et seq. Compl. (ECF No. 1). On the
same day, Penobscot Metro moved for a preliminary injunction,
Mot. for Prelim. Inj. (ECF No. 3) (Pl.'s
Mot.), and for expedited consideration of that motion.
Pl.'s Mot. for Expedited Consideration (ECF No.
4). In its motion for expedited consideration, Penobscot
Metro asked for an expedited briefing schedule and an
expedited hearing. Id. at 1. The Court held a
telephone conference on September 1, 2016. Min.
Entry (ECF No. 10). As it turned out that neither
Penobscot Metro nor Bangor was requesting a hearing, the
Court denied the motion to expedite a hearing that would not
take place. Order (ECF No. 11). The Court did,
however, set an expedited briefing schedule. Id. On
September 16, 2016, Bangor objected to Penobscot Metro's
motion for preliminary injunction. Def.'s Obj. to
Pl.'s Mot. for Prelim. Inj. (ECF No. 13)
(Def.'s Opp'n). Penobscot Metro replied to
Bangor's objections on September 21, 2016. Pl.'s
Reply in Supp. of Mot. for Prelim. Inj. (ECF No. 16)
The Allegations in the Complaint
Metro is a limited partnership that operates a methadone
treatment clinic in Bangor, Maine. Compl. ¶ 2.
Methadone clinics provide treatment to patients recovering
from addiction to legal prescription opiates and illegal
drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl. Id. ¶ 6.
This treatment includes behavioral therapy or counseling and
the administration of methadone in controlled doses under
strict medical supervision. Id. ¶¶ 7, 8.
clinics must obtain two types of licenses from the state of
Maine: 1) a license from the Division of Licensing and
Regulatory Services of the Department of Health and Human
Services, and 2) a license from the Pharmacy Board.
Id. ¶ 9. Under federal law, methadone clinics
are regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency and must follow
guidelines and rules prescribed by the Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Authority. Id. ¶ 10.
Metro is licensed by the state of Maine to provide methadone
treatment to 300 patients. Id. ¶ 12. Penobscot
Metro claims that as of August 1, 2016, it had a waitlist of
over 170 additional people who wish to receive methadone
treatment, and that it gets daily calls from individuals who
desire treatment inquiring whether they can be served.
Id. ¶¶ 12, 13.
there are more people seeking methadone treatment in the
Bangor area than available methadone-clinic spaces to serve
them, Penobscot Metro decided to expand its facility.
Id. ¶ 14. In March of 2016, Penobscot Metro
completed construction of upgrades and improvements needed to
accommodate 200 additional patients, for a total of 500
patients. Id. ¶ 15. That same month, the Bangor
Code Enforcement Office issued Certificates of Occupancy
documenting that Penobscot Metro had met applicable building
code requirements. Id. Penobscot Metro has obtained
all state certifications and licenses it needs to operate a
clinic that serves 500 patients and has met the requirements
of federal law. Id. ¶ 16. All that remains for
Penobscot Metro to serve a total of 500 patients is for
Bangor to sign off on the expansion. Id.
of 2016, Penobscot Metro applied to the Bangor City Council
for approval of the expansion pursuant to Chapter 93 of the
Bangor Code of Ordinances. Id. ¶ 17. Chapter 93
bars the establishment of “chemical dependency
treatment facilities . . . that provide methadone maintenance
treatment” in the city of Bangor. Id. ¶
18 (quoting Bangor, Me., Code ch. 93, § 93-1 (2005)
(Code)). Chapter 93 also bars existing facilities from
expanding. Id. ¶ 19 (citing Code § 93-2).
However, Chapter 93 does permit existing facilities to
“apply to the City for a license to increase the number
of patients that it may treat at its existing facility”
if five conditions are met:
A. The property is adequate to accommodate the proposed
increase, including providing sufficient interior space to
avoid patient queuing on sidewalks, parking area, and other
areas outside of the facility;
B. The treatment program is able to hire and retain adequate
numbers of qualified staff to meet applicable state and
federal standards of care;
C. The applicant has demonstrated a need for increased
services that cannot be reasonably met except by the increase
in the permitted number of patients at its existing location;
D. The applicant is in compliance with all state or federal
laws, rules or regulations regarding its opioid treatment
E. The applicant is in compliance will [sic] all City codes
Id. ¶ 20 (quoting Code § 93-5). Section
93-6 further provides that “the City Council may
consider the geographic locations of patients and potential
patients and may deny the application if it determines that
there is sufficient patient demand to warrant a treatment
facility in an area geographically closer to current and
potential future patients.” Id. ¶ 22
(quoting Code § 93-6). Penobscot Metro alleges that at
hearings held on August 1 and 8, 2016, it demonstrated to the
City Council that the five conditions under section 93-5 had
been met. Id. ¶ 21. It further alleges that the
Council did not make a determination based on the geographic
location of patients and potential patients under section
93-6. Id. ¶ 22.
Penobscot Metro's application for permission to expand
under Chapter 93 was pending, the City Council received
emails from Bangor residents that Penobscot Metro claims
“demonstrated discriminatory prejudice against
recovering drugs addicts based on the false premise and
stereotype that methadone clinic patients are criminals who
disrupt communities where methadone clinics are
located.” Id. ¶ 23.
July 11 meeting of the City Council, Councilors David Nealley
and Benjamin Sprague voiced concerns about what they believed
would happen if Penobscot Metro expanded. Id. ¶
29. Penobscot Metro claims that “[w]hile citizens and
city councilors expressed the view that the location or
expansion of a methadone clinic in a city causes crime to
increase or other negative consequences, no facts or
empirical evidence to that effect were presented to the City
Council.” Id. ¶ 30. Penobscot Metro
alleges that on the contrary, it presented evidence to the
City Council that the location or expansion of a methadone
clinic in a city actually causes crime to decrease.
Id. ¶¶ 31, 32.
of 2016, Penobscot Metro wrote to the City Solicitor advising
him that recovering drugs addicts are covered by the ADA,
that Chapter 93 violates the ADA on its face by singling out
methadone clinics for discriminatory treatment, and that a
decision to deny expansion would also violate the ADA.
Id. ¶ 34. On August 8, 2016, the City Council
voted 7 to 2 to deny permission for Penobscot Metro to
expand; those who voted against the expansion explained that
they did so because they questioned the need for additional
methadone treatment slots in Bangor. Id.
¶¶ 35, 36. Penobscot Metro claims that the evidence
in the record shows that additional slots were needed.
Id. ¶ 37. It also states that
“[r]ecovering drug addicts who are unable to obtain
methadone treatment are at grave risk of returning to illegal
drug use and experiencing severe adverse health consequences
such as illness, permanent disability, and death.”
Id. ¶ 38.
THE PARTIES' POSITIONS
The Plaintiff's Motion
Metro claims it satisfies the first factor of the preliminary
injunction analysis and is likely to succeed on the merits
because “(1) Chapter 93 violates the ADA on its face,
and (2) even if it did not, the City acted on discriminatory
prejudice in denying Penobscot Metro a permit to
expand.” Pl.'s Mot. at 9. Penobscot Metro
states that the ADA is a federal civil rights statute
designed to protect disabled individuals against
discrimination by public entities or federal fund recipients
based on their disabilities. Id. It says that Bangor
is subject to both the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, which are
analyzed under the same standards, because it is a public
entity and a recipient of federal funds. Id. at 10.
It states that individuals participating in drug
rehabilitation programs are qualified individuals with
disabilities protected by the statutes. Id. at
10-11. Penobscot Metro further claims it has standing to sue
on behalf of its patients. Id. at 11-12.
Metro argues that Chapter 93 discriminates against recovering
drug addicts on its face “by expressly proscribing the
establishment or expansion of ‘chemical dependency
treatment facilities . . . that provide methadone maintenance
treatment' in the City.” Id. at 12
(quoting Code § 93-1). Citing caselaw, Penobscot Metro
claims that an ordinance cannot single out methadone clinics
for different procedures or adverse treatment. Id.
at 12-13. It argues that because Chapter 93 “places
obstacles in the path of anyone who seeks to open or expand a
methadone clinic” that do not apply to other healthcare
providers or businesses, it violates the ADA. Id. at
Metro additionally argues that Bangor's decision to deny
Penobscot Metro a permit violated the ADA because it was
based on “discriminatory prejudice.” Id.
It contends that “[w]hile city councilors who voted
against the expansion claimed to be doing so because they
questioned the need for additional methadone treatment slots
in Bangor, the evidence in the record did not support that
concern.” Id. at 14. Penobscot Metro notes
that “Bangor residents had submitted numerous public
comments to the City Council and testified at the hearings
expressing the view that methadone clinic patients disrupt
communities where clinics are located by engaging in criminal
activity.” Id. It argues that these concerns
are not supported by evidence, but are based on stereotypes
and prejudice against recovering drug addicts. Id.
caselaw, Penobscot Metro argues that “[a] municipality
must demonstrate an objectively legitimate basis for
discrimination” and that “[g]eneralized
perceptions about disabilities and unfounded speculations
about threats to safety are specifically rejected as grounds
to justify exclusion.” Id. (citing CRC
Health Grp., Inc. v. Town of Warren, No.
2:11-cv-196-DBH, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76239, at *39 (D. Me.
Apr. 1, 2014)). Penobscot Metro claims that there is unmet
demand for methadone treatment and that it demonstrated that
it met the conditions for expansion; it argues that
“[t]he explanation for the City Council's decision
is therefore clear: it acted based on discriminatory
prejudice to keep recovering drug addicts out of
Bangor.” Id. at 14-15.
as to the first factor, Penobscot Metro notes that the ADA
does not apply if a defendant can demonstrate a significant
risk to the health or safety of others, but claims that
expanding the clinic would pose no such risk. Id. at
Metro argues that the second factor for a preliminary
injunction is satisfied because “[r]ecovering drug
addicts who wish to receive methadone treatment are
experiencing irreparable harm while Penobscot Metro is
prevented from expanding to serve them.” Id.
at 17. Penobscot Metro asserts that “[g]iven the
strength of [its] showing on the
likelihood-of-success-on-the-merits prong of the preliminary
injunction analysis, its burden to establish irreparable harm
if injunctive relief is not granted is lessened.”
Id. (citing EEOC v. Astra USA, Inc., 94
F.3d 738, 743 (1st Cir. 1996)). But, it claims, it can
establish irreparable harm even without the benefit of this
sliding scale. Id. at 18. It argues that in
evaluating this prong courts have looked to the harm
sustained by a clinic's patients. Id.
Additionally, it argues that when a defendant violates a
civil rights statute, courts “will presume that the
plaintiff has suffered irreparable injury from the fact of
the defendant's violation.” Id. at 18-19
(collecting cases). It claims that “[r]ecovering drug
addicts who are unable to obtain methadone treatment are at
grave risk of returning to illegal drug use and experiencing
severe illness, permanent disability, and even death”
and that “[g]iven the substantial unmet need for opiate
addiction treatment in Bangor, the number of prospective
patients who stand to suffer harm is significant.”
Id. at 19.
Metro argues that it satisfies the third factor for a
preliminary injunction because the balance of harms weighs in
favor of an injunction. Id. Specifically, it argues
that the harm would be severe to recovering drug addicts if
Penobscot Metro were not permitted to proceed, whereas the
requested relief “would simply require the City to let
Penobscot Metro treat more patients.” Id. It
further contends that any concerns about increased crime are
Penobscot Metro argues that it satisfies the fourth prong
because a preliminary injunction would serve the public
interest. Id. In particular, Penobscot Metro claims
that the public will be served by “helping recovering
drug addicts to overcome their addiction, avoid ...