Amicus

The advancement of a women’s rights agenda depends heavily on court decisions for its success. Since its inception, CWL has devoted significant energy to an active amicus committee in which CWL prepares or joins others in presenting amicus briefs in cases relevant to CWL’s core issues.
  • In determining whether CWL will sign on to or file an amicus brief, we consider the following factors: Is the issue of importance to women? Is it an area of law directly relating to women? Will the resolution of the issue have a significant impact or effect on women even though the issue is not normally considered a “women’s issue?”;
  • Is the issue likely to be or has it already been adequately briefed by the parties in the lawsuit?;
  • Is CWL’s position likely to be of interest to the Court? Will the fact that CWL takes the time to file an amicus brief highlight the importance of the issue in a way that might not otherwise be evident?; and
  • Where does the issue fall among CWL’s overall priorities and amicus brief priorities for the year?

CWL has joined amicus briefs in the following recent cases:

Case  Outcome

Meland v. Weber
CWL filed its own amicus brief October 8, 2021, in Meland v. Weber, No. 2:19-cv-2288, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, supporting the State of California in a challenge to SB 826, the statute signed into law in 2018 that requires all publicly held corporations headquartered in California to have a minimum number of women on their boards of directors. The plaintiff, a shareholder of a publicly held corporation, argues that SB 826 requires shareholders to discriminate on the basis of sex when exercising their voting rights. The state argues that the plaintiff lacks standing and that, in any event, SB 826 passes the applicable intermediate scrutiny test because its flexible requirements are tailored to the important government interest in addressing gender discrimination and increasing diversity at the highest levels of business governance. CWL drafted and filed an amicus brief to provide additional context on the discriminatory structural barriers that lead corporations to exclude women from their boardrooms, to explain the need for governmental action to halt this discrimination against women at the highest levels of business leadership, and to highlight the many experienced and well-qualified women who are willing and able to serve on public company boards. San Diego appellate specialist Johanna Schiavoni drafted the brief on behalf of CWL.

Pending

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization
CWL joined the National Women’s Law Center and 71 other organizations in filing an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court September 20, 201, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, supporting the right to abortion. In this case, the last remaining Mississippi abortion provider challenged a state law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks, defying nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent, going back to Roe v. Wade, that recognizes that the Constitution guarantees each person the right to decide whether to continue a pre-viability pregnancy. The amicus brief explains how gutting or overturning the right to abortion denies the liberty and equality of women and all people who can become pregnant, undermines their bodily integrity and personal autonomy, and limits their ability to participate equally in social and economic life. The brief also responds to Mississippi’s argument that advances in contraceptive access and gender equality obviate the need for the right to abortion, highlighting the continued systemic barriers to contraceptive care, the persistence of economic gender disparities, the high costs of childbirth and parenting, discrimination and other burdens imposed on pregnant and parenting workers and students, and barriers to accessing child care.

Pending

K.R. v. Duluth Edison Charter Schools
CWL joined an amicus brief filed September 10, 2021, by the National Women’s Law Center in K.R. v. Duluth Edison Charter Schools, Case No. 19-cv-00999, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. The brief supports the plaintiffs, three Black and bi-racial children in Minnesota who claim they were frequently treated differently than white students, experienced ongoing race-based harassment, and were subject to a hostile learning environment at Duluth Edison Charter Schools (DECS), in violation of the Equal Protection Clause, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1963, and the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The amicus brief argues that when educators discipline Black students more frequently and more harshly for behaviors they typically overlook with white students, such differential treatment leads to unequal educational opportunities for Black students. Amici also argue that schools commit race discrimination when they mistreat Black students in connection with how they wear their hair and explain the harms of dress codes, including uniform policies, which are steeped in race- and gender-based stereotypes and often lead schools to discriminatorily enforce them against Black girls.

 Pending

Roe v. U.S.
CWL joined an amicus brief filed August 26, 2021, by the National Women’s Law Center, Legal Momentum, and the Purple Campaign in Roe v. U.S., Case No. 21-1346, a sexual harassment case in the Fourth Circuit. The amicus brief supports Jane Roe, a former assistant federal defender who challenged the Fourth Circuit’s mandatory alternative dispute resolution process, which deprived her of constitutionally required due process and equal protection rights when she reported sexual harassment and retaliation that she experienced while working at the Federal Defender’s Office. The case involves the scope of protections for employees of the federal judiciary who report harassment and other discrimination, and the amicus brief asks the Fourth Circuit to hold the federal judiciary to the same standards as other employers when responding to employee reports of harassment and discrimination.

 Pending

Crisitello v. St. Theresa School
CWL joined an amicus brief filed August 4, 2021, by the National Women’s Law Center and Americans United for Church and State in Crisitello v. St. Theresa School, Case No. 085213, in the New Jersey Supreme Court, in support of Victoria Crisitello, an unmarried elementary school art teacher at a Catholic school who was fired after she told her employer she was pregnant. The school claims that the plaintiff is a “minister,” and therefore the ministerial exception allows the school to deny her workplace civil rights protections. This case represents continuing efforts by religiously affiliated employers to avoid complying with workplace civil rights. The amicus brief details the range of harms that could flow from deciding that the plaintiff – an art teacher who never taught religion, never prayed with her students, and never counseled them on doctrine or faith – is a “minister,” including, for example, losing protections against sexual harassment, unequal pay, disability discrimination, and claims for overtime pay.

 Pending

Corbitt v. Taylor
CWL joined an amicus brief filed August 2, 2021, by the National Women’s Law Center in Corbitt v. Taylor, No. 21-10486, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, challenging Alabama’s policy of denying transgender people driver’s licenses with accurate gender markers unless they undergo genital surgery and provide proof of such to the State. The amicus brief argues that Alabama’s policy – which requires transgender people to carry licenses with inaccurate gender markers – puts transgender people at heightened risk of discrimination and violence and violates protections against sex discrimination under the Constitution. The brief also argues that requiring all transgender people to have a particular kind of gender-affirming surgery before they can update their license is harmful and inconsistent with best practice care. Not all transgender people need or want surgery of any kind – and even those who do want it may not have access because it is costly, and still frequently not covered by insurance. There are also multiple forms of gender-confirming surgeries, but Alabama requires genital surgery, which many people do not need or have access to.

 Pending

Morgan v. U.S. Soccer Federation
CWL joined an amicus brief filed July 30, 2021, by the National Women’s Law Center and the Women’s Sports Foundation in Morgan v. U.S. Soccer Federation, Case No. 21-55356, an equal pay case pending in the Ninth Circuit. The amicus brief supports the professional soccer players on the U.S. Women’s National Team (“USWNT”) in an appeal of the dismissal of their Equal Pay Act claims. For years, the U.S. Soccer Federation paid players on the USWNT less than the players on the U.S. Men’s National Team. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendant on the equal pay claims and, in part, on Title VII discrimination claims, and the parties negotiated a settlement regarding the remaining discrimination claims. The plaintiffs argue that the district court made errors in analyzing their claims under the Equal Pay Act – including leaving out a comparison of the rate at which the women’s players were paid to the rate of pay for the men’s team. The U.S. Soccer Federation argues that it did not pay women players less when considering total compensation and focuses on the terms of the collective bargaining agreements, which provided the women players higher guaranteed base pay and lower bonuses than the men players, who received higher bonuses but less base pay. Plaintiffs argue that parties cannot negotiate terms that are discriminatory based on sex or any other protected basis, including through a collective bargaining agreement. The amicus brief discusses the importance of equal pay in this context and generally, and the importance of following the applicable legal standard for claims of equal pay for women.

 Pending

Hamilton v. Dallas County
CWL joined an amicus brief filed May 21, 2021, by the National Women’s Law Center and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project in Hamilton v. Dallas County, Case No. 21-10133, an equal pay case pending in the Fifth Circuit. The amicus brief was filed in support of nine female detention service officers at the Dallas County Jail. The women were subjected to a facially discriminatory scheduling policy that allowed male officers to take off both weekend days but limited female officers to weekdays or a single weekend day off, on the grounds that more male officers were needed during weekdays for safety reasons. The county argued that “the disparate gender-based work scheduling policy does not violate Title VII because it is not an “ultimate employment action” and therefore not an “adverse employment action.” The amicus brief explains that the county’s policy fits within the history of women’s outright exclusion from male-dominated jobs like the ones at issue here. The brief also highlights the harms to women who are caregivers – disproportionately Black and Brown women – that stem from inequitable work scheduling policies.

 Pending

B.R. v. F.C.S.B.
CWL joined an amicus brief filed April 22,2021 by the National Women’s Law Center in B.R. v. F.C.S.B., Case No. 21-01005, in the Fourth Circuit. The case involves a procedural issue regarding filing lawsuits under pseudonyms and the relation-back doctrine for purposes of the statute of limitations. The amicus brief was filed in support of a student sexual assault survivor against her school. B.R. was 12 years old when she was repeatedly sexually harassed, including raped, tortured, and threatened with death by her classmates. At age 20, B.R. filed a lawsuit against her school and former classmates alleging Title IX and other violations under the pseudonym “Jane Doe.” The district court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss, holding that B.R.’s failure to obtain permission from the court before filing under a pseudonym was not a jurisdictional defect and her amended complaint related back to the date of her original complaint for purposes of the statute of limitations. The amicus brief explains that plaintiffs’ ability to use pseudonyms in sexual assault and child sexual abuse cases is critical to ensure privacy and reduce the risk of re-traumatization and retaliation. The brief also highlights that sexual assault survivors already face many barriers to justice and that an error in initially seeking permission to file under a pseudonym should not result in dismissal of a lawsuit. The Fourth Circuit issued an opinion November 2, 2021, permitting the plaintiff to proceed under a pseudonym in the lawsuit against her school.

 Favorable

Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.
CWL joined an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court March 31, 2021, in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., Case No. 20-255, which involved a high school cheerleader who was disciplined for posting comments critical of her school on social media. The brief was filed by the National Women’s Law Center, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The Supreme Court issued a favorable ruling June 23, 2021, holding that schools must be able to address some student speech that takes place outside the schoolhouse gates, but that the student in question engaged in speech that did not meet the justifications; thus, the school violated her First Amendment rights. The Court held that the key test for whether schools can act on student speech is not whether the speech occurred inside or outside school, but can include other key factors, including whether students are harassed or otherwise harmed. The Supreme Court’s ruling acknowledged issues raised in CWL’s amicus brief, which argued that the lower courts correctly concluded that the school district exceeded its authority in punishing the student for her Snapchat post, but underscored the importance of also preserving schools’ ability to address legitimately harmful speech, such as bullying, harassment, and threats of violence – whether or not it occurs on school grounds.

 Favorable

Chase v. Nodine’s Smokehouse, Inc.
CWL joined an amicus brief filed by the National Women’s Law Center March 23, 2021, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in this case asserting the rights of survivors of sexual assault, particularly those who are low-wage workers, to fair, impartial treatment both in the workplace and when reporting sexual assault to the police. In this case, a woman who was sexually assaulted by her supervisor at the restaurant where she worked reported the assault to the police, but was then herself charged for allegedly making a false report. The woman sued her assailant, the restaurant, individual police officers, and the local police department asserting that the police response to her report of sexual assault constituted sex discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The federal district court in Connecticut denied the defendants’ summary judgment motion, and defendants appealed, arguing that qualified immunity shields the police from the Equal Protection claims. The amicus brief presents social science research and legal precedents explaining the dynamics of sexual assault and how sexual assault survivors interact with law enforcement; explaining how the police department’s response to the client’s report of sexual assault – including bringing charges against the client for false reporting – reflects gender bias; and explaining how and why gender bias by law enforcement may harm survivors of sexual assault, the vast majority of whom are women, and thus violate the Equal Protection Clause. The Second Circuit issued an order October 4, 2021, dismissing the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

 Favorable

Cochran v. Gresham, Cochran v. Philbrick, Arkansas v. Gresham
CWL joined an amicus brief filed by the National Women’s Law Center and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on February 24, 2021, in Cochran v. Gresham (and consolidated cases) in the U.S. Supreme Court. These cases involve challenges to HHS’ approval, under the Trump administration, of Medicaid demonstration projects in Arkansas and New Hampshire that impose work requirements as a condition for receiving Medicaid benefits. The circuit and district courts below held that HHS’ approval of the demonstration projects was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act because the agency failed to consider that the projects will result in a loss of health coverage, which is directly at odds with the principal purpose of the Medicaid Act. The amicus brief highlights the devastating impact that the Medicaid work requirements will have on women and people of color, and especially on women of color, exacerbating existing health and economic disparities. The brief also emphasizes that the COVID-19 pandemic simultaneously makes it harder for individuals to satisfy work requirements while also compounding the health and economic consequences that will result from loss of health coverage in this moment. The Biden administration reversed the work-requirement policy and filed a motion asking the Supreme Court to vacate the circuit court decisions, instruct the court below to remand the matters to HHS, and remove the cases from the argument calendar. The Supreme Court removed the cases from the March 29, 2021 oral argument calendar and, on April 5, 2021, ordered the cases held in abeyance pending further order.

 Favorable

Tucker v. Faith Bible Chapter International
CWL joined an amicus brief filed January 19, 2021, by the National Women’s Law Center in Tucker v. Faith Bible Chapter International, Case No. 20-1230, a Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals case involving the ministerial exception, which bars the application of anti-discrimination laws to religious institutions’ employment relationships with its “ministers.” In this case, a religious school claims that the ministerial exception permitted it to fire a science teacher for speaking out about racism and racial harassment. The district court denied the school’s summary judgment motion, holding that there were factual disputes as to whether the teacher was a “minister” under the exception, and the school appealed. The amicus brief addresses the specific harms to women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and others at risk for discrimination and harassment in the workplace, as well as for wage-and-hour violations, through an unwarranted expansion of the ministerial exception to avoid workers’ civil rights protections.

 Pending

Hecox v. Little
CWL joined an amicus brief filed December 21, 2020, by the National Women’s Law Center and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Hecox v. Little, Case Nos. 20-35813, 20-35815, a case pending in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The case involves a challenge to an Idaho law that bans transgender and intersex women and girls from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. The plaintiffs obtained a preliminary injunction on their equal protection claim, which the state appealed. The amicus brief focuses on the ways the Idaho law violates Title IX, particularly in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County. The brief argues that excluding all transgender women and girls from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity has detrimental physical and psychological impacts on these student-athletes and others, and the “sex verification” provision could result in any woman or girl who does not conform to stereotypes about femininity being subjected to invasive and humiliating tests. The amicus brief also discusses how policies like the Idaho law create particular harms for Black and brown girls and women, given the history of stereotypes regarding athleticism, biology, and gender that are applied to women and girls of color. The Ninth Circuit issued an order June 24, 2021, remanding the case to the district court for the limited purpose of determining whether the plaintiff’s claim is moot in light of her changed enrollment status at Boise State University.

 Neutral

Pambakian v. Blatt
On July 2, 2020, CWL joined an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit in support of a plaintiff who alleges she was sexually harassed and assaulted at a company holiday party. After she reported the assault, she was asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement and when she declined to do so, the company adopted a mandatory arbitration policy two years after the assault took place. The amicus brief explains how mandatory arbitration can be harmful to sexual harassment claims and how it is especially unfair in this case where the agreement was signed after the sexual assault took place. The Ninth Circuit issued an opinion September 24, 2021, affirming the district court’s decision compelling arbitration of plaintiff’s claims. Plaintiff filed a motion for rehearing en banc October 8, 2021.

 Unfavorable

Peltier v. Charter Day School
On June 22, 2020, CWL joined an amicus brief in the Fourth Circuit in support of the plaintiffs in. The plaintiffs are challenging whether the defendant’s school dress code policy, which requires all girls to wear skirts, “skorts,” or “jumpers” to school, violates the Equal Protection Clause and Title IX. The amicus brief explains that the dress code policy is based on false notions that girls should be passive and must conform to specific gender stereotypes. It also explains how the policy is particularly harmful for transgender students and students who are gender non-binary or gender non-conforming. The Fourth Circuit issued an opinion August 9, 2021, reversing summary judgment for the Plaintiffs on the equal protection claim and reversing summary judgment for the Defendants on the Title VII claim. The court held: “[W]e conclude that the charter school here was not a state actor when promulgating the dress code and, thus, is not subject to an equal protection claim. At the same time, however, we determine that claims of sex discrimination related to a dress code are not categorically excluded from the scope of Title IX. Accordingly, we reverse on both claims and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.” The Plaintiffs filed a petition for rehearing en banc August 23, 3021, challenging the ruling on the equal protection claim.

 Neutral

Bostock v. Clayton County
On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court agreed with CWL’s position set forth in an amicus brief that discrimination against an employee because of sexual orientation or gender identity constitutes prohibited employment discrimination “because of . . . sex” within the meaning of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Our amicus brief explained that there is no meaningful distinction between a claim of sex stereotyping based on a person’s assigned-at-birth sex and a claim of gender stereotyping based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

 Favorable

California v. Texas
On May 11, 2020, CWL joined an amicus brief in a case currently pending in the United States Supreme Court. In this case, a group of states led by Texas is attempting to dismantle the entirety of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by arguing that the ACA’s individual mandate was rendered unconstitutional when Congress reduced the tax for not having health insurance to zero as part of tax reform in December 2017. A coalition of states led by California and the U.S. House of Representatives have stepped in to defend the ACA, as the Trump administration has refused to do so. The amicus brief explains that striking down the ACA will have a devastating impact on women and their families, and in particular women and families of color. In a 7-2 decision issued June 17, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas and other states that initially challenged the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate did not have standing, as they had not shown past or future injury related to the provision. The Court otherwise did not rule on the constitutionality of the individual mandate in this case.

 Favorable 

Affordable Care Act Contraceptive Mandate Cases
Over the last several years, CWL has signed on to a number of amicus briefs challenging the Trump administration's new rules that broadly exempt employer's from complying with the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage mandate.  While CWL achieved a number of victories in the lower courts, in Little Sisters of the Poor, the United States Supreme Court overruled a nationwide injunction which was preventing the rules from taking effect. 

 Unfavorable

Francis v. Kings Park Manor
On May 5, 2020, CWL joined an amicus brief in the Second Circuit supporting the plaintiff in Francis v. Kings Park Manor. The plaintiff is an African-American tenant who faced severe racial harassment from a fellow tenant. The complaint alleges that, pursuant to the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, the plaintiff’s landlord was obliged to take reasonable steps within its control to remedy the hostile housing environment. The Second Circuit initially agreed with the plaintiff’s view, but now the court has voted to rehear the case en banc. The amicus brief addresses the impact a decision adverse to the plaintiff will have on women. The Second Circuit issued an opinion March 25, 2021, holding that landlords cannot be presumed to have the degree of control over tenants that would be necessary to impose liability under the Fair Housing Act for tenant-on-tenant misconduct.

 Unfavorable

Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania
On April 8, 2020, CWL joined an amicus brief in Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, a case challenging the Trump Administration’s new rules that broadly exempt certain employers from complying with the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate. The United States Supreme Court granted review of the Third Circuit’s order affirming a nationwide injunction that enjoins enforcement of the new rules. The amicus brief explains how the Trump Administration’s new rules will have a significant detrimental impact on women.

Unfavorable 

Doe v. University of Kentucky
CWL joined an amicus brief supporting the plaintiff in her appeal of a district court decision holding that she lacked standing to bring a Title IX claim. The plaintiff alleged that the University of Kentucky acted with deliberate indifference after she reported that she was raped by a student in the university’s dormitory. Even though the plaintiff was a community college student taking part in a program at the university, resided at the university, and had access to the university’s services and facilities, the district court held that she lacked standing because she was not a student at the university. On August 19, 2020, the Sixth Circuit agreed that the plaintiff has standing to pursue her claim, reversing the district court's decision.

Favorable 

DeOtte v. Nevada
CWL joined an amicus brief in a Fifth Circuit case dealing with the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Drawing on social science research and reports, the brief argues that the coverage exception adopted by the district court will harm women across the country. The decision below should be reversed because seamless, no-cost contraception is essential to women's equality and advancement.

 Pending

June Medical v. Gee
This amicus brief in a high-profile Supreme Court abortion rights case focuses on the actual burdens that the Louisiana statute at issue imposes on women’s ability to make reproductive decisions, and the resulting negative impacts that deny women’s equal participation in social and economic life. These harms—which have particularly detrimental effects on low-income women, women living in poverty, women of color, women who already have children, women subjected to intimate partner violence, and transgender and non-binary individuals--confirm that the Louisiana statute unduly burdens individuals’ reproductive autonomy and inhibits their equal participation in society, thereby depriving them of the right to liberty promised by the Constitution.

Favorable

Tudor v. Southeastern Oklahoma State University
In this case, a unanimous jury found in favor of a professor who was denied tenure after undergoing a male to female gender transition, but the district court denied her claim for reinstatement. CWL joined a brief underscoring the importance of reinstatement in employment discrimination cases and arguing that the factors the court considered in denying reinstatement were improper. The Tenth Circuit issued an opinion September 13, 2021, affirming the jury verdict in favor of plaintiff and reversing the district court’s post-verdict rulings denying plaintiff’s reinstatement and in calculating front pay.

 Favorable

Jock v. Sterling Jewelers
This case is a class action challenge to pervasive sex discrimination in pay and promotion opportunities under Title VII and the Equal Pay Act. 

 Favorable

Parker v. Reema Consulting Services, Inc.
Our amicus brief argued that the lower court inappropriately dismissed the sex discrimination claim. The Fourth Circuit reversed the lower court ruling in its decision by a unanimous three-judge panel, holding that rumors that a female employee slept with her male boss to obtain promotions can give rise to her employer’s liability under Title VII for sex discrimination. The Fourth Circuit revived the claims of sex discrimination in this case agreeing that “the traditional negative stereotypes regarding the relationship between the advancement of women in the workplace and their sexual behavior” are still at play and allowing harassment based on such stereotypes can violate federal law.

 Favorable

Karnoski, et al v. Trump 
In opposition to dissolving the preliminary injunction halting the government's ban on transgender men and women serving in the military. 

 Favorable

Adams v. St. John’s County School Board 
CWL signed on to an amici brief in a case involving transgendered students’ rights to use the restroom of their choice. The brief argued that the presence of transgender students in a restroom does not create a hostile environment under Title IX or implicate a privacy concern under the U.S. Constitution; that sex-based protections in federal civil rights laws and the Constitution’s equal protection provision include protections for transgender students; and that transgender students face documented harms when they are not permitted to use facilities that align with their gender identities.

 Favorable

Parents for Privacy v. Dallas School Dist. No. 2 
CWL signed on to an amici brief in a case involving transgendered students’ rights to use the restroom of their choice. The brief argued that the presence of transgender students in a restroom does not create a hostile environment under Title IX or implicate a privacy concern under the U.S. Constitution; that sex-based protections in federal civil rights laws and the Constitution’s equal protection provision include protections for transgender students; and that transgender students face documented harms when they are not permitted to use facilities that align with their gender identities. 

 Favorable
 
If you would like CWL to consider drafting or signing onto an amicus brief, please contact us at [email protected].