may even illuminate the agency and allow it to change its policies on its own accord. It is clear to this Court that if this action is primarily a challenge to the general medical screening policies of the Peace Corps, the APA would provide the appropriate means for bringing the action to federal court.
On the other hand, if the claim here is primarily focussed on issues outside the expertise of Peace Corps, a reviewing court would not be significantly benefitted by an administrative record. In such a case, the primary focus of review would be the Rehabilitation Act, which gives rise to the plaintiff's claim. Consequently, the analysis would be essentially limited to determining whether the individual is considered disabled under the act, is otherwise qualified for the position sought, and is being excluded solely by reason of her disability. See, Smith v. Barton 914 F.2d 1330, 1338 (9th Cir. 1990) cert. denied 501 U.S. 1217;
, 115 L. Ed. 2d 995, 111 S. Ct. 2825 Bentivegna v. U.S. Dept. of Labor, 694 F.2d 619 (9th Cir. 1982).
Unlike a claim that primarily challenges the basic policies of an agency, the analysis of whether the plaintiff is otherwise qualified and excluded solely because of her disability does not require the examination of the whole operation of the Peace Corps -- a task for which the Peace Corps would be uniquely qualified. Instead, a reviewing court would explore what this individual is retained to do, whether her disability affects her ability to accomplish those tasks, and whether the Peace Corps can accommodate her disability. See generally, Alexander v. Choate, 469 U.S. 287, 83 L. Ed. 2d 661, 105 S. Ct. 712 (1985) (Requirements for review a § 504 claim).
The agency's ability to assist a court in reviewing this type of case is minimal. The Peace Corps does not have special expertise in the Rehabilitation Act nor special insight into the nature of the plaintiff's disability. The relevant expertise of the Peace Corps, therefore, would be limited to describing the type of work the plaintiff has been retained to accomplish and how it believes the disability would affect the carrying out of the required tasks. Accessing that information does not require an administrative hearing or similar procedure. In fact, courts are quite accustomed to gathering those types of information and opinions. Consequently, this court finds that it would be inefficient to use the standards created by the APA in addressing a claim against a federal agency that primarily focusses on § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, a statute unrelated to the agency's expertise.
VII. Issues Raised in Present Case
In this case, the type of individualized discrimination claim best suited for analysis under § 504 and the kind of request for systemic change most appropriate for APA review, are both present. Plaintiff, Leslie Mendez, prays for three types of relief under one cause of action pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act: (1) An order requiring the Peace Corps to certify the plaintiff as medically eligible for service in the Peace Corps, (2) reasonable attorneys' fees, and (3) an injunction barring the Peace Corps from utilizing its current criteria concerning psychological conditions. FAC, (P.F.R.) PP 1-4
The weight of plaintiff's complaint is oriented toward addressing her individual concerns.
This Court interprets plaintiff's complaint as having a primary purpose of securing Ms. Mendez's position in the Peace Corps and a secondary purpose of protecting future Peace Corps volunteers from being assessed under the criteria that barred Ms. Mendez.
Consequently, under the rationale of J.L. and the effect of Lane, this Court concludes that plaintiff's case is more appropriately brought under the standards established by § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This case is not one that would benefit significantly from the type of administrative review that would occur if this case proceeded under the APA. Because the Rehabilitation Act does not require the exhaustion of administrative remedies, plaintiff's claim is ripe for review in this court.
Defendant's motion to dismiss is hereby DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
THELTON E. HENDERSON, CHIEF JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT