Amicus Briefs Committee 2019-2020
ACA Affordable Birth Control: Since President Trump’s election, women’s rights have been increasingly in jeopardy and at the forefront of the news and politics. Since 2017, WLALA has joined numerous amicus briefs organized by the the National Women’s Law Center in support of injunctions to block the Trump administration’s rules that broadly exempt employers and universities from complying with the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive coverage mandate. In 2017, the Trump administration removed the ACA’s requirement that employers provide employees with no-cost birth control coverage, creating an exemption if an employer or university invokes a broad religious or moral objection. This issue touches on a host of social and legal topics important to WLALA, including the protection of access to contraception, preservation of access to medical services for low-income groups, and the elimination of gender discrimination in health care and insurance. As a result, WLALA has joined briefs on this issue in 2019 in the U.S. Supreme Court, and in the First, Third and Ninth Circuits, as well as several district courts.
Brooks v. Brooks, California Supreme Court, Case No. H043467 (2019): WLALA drafted an amicus letter to the California Supreme Court in support of a petition for review in a family law case. The value of the husband’s separate property business increased 11,000% during marriage (to approximately $38 million) and it was undisputed that the community—the husband—devoted substantial efforts to increasing the value of the business during marriage, even though his efforts may not have been the chief or primary reason for the increase in value. The trial court allocated none of that increase to the community and all of it to the husband, the owner of the separate property business before marriage. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The wife then received none of the increase in the business’ value that occurred primarily during the marriage. She would have received half if all of the increase had been apportioned as community property. The petition for review challenged the zero apportionment to the community result, rather than a claim that the community is entitled to all of the increase, because it provides no value to the wife’s taking care of the home and raising the children in the business value increase. This was an important issue because the number of women-run businesses in Silicon Valley is small, so predominately cases impacting the community’s contribution to raising children on the value of these businesses falls on women.
Boermeester v. Carry, Case No. B290675, California Supreme Court (2020) : an appeal involving a USC football player accused of domestic violence, whom USC had taken disciplinary action against after an investigation and administrative hearing. The issue involved was whether he was entitled to a new hearing under USC’s administrative procedure, because he was not allowed to cross-examine his girlfriend (the victim) or other witnesses. The Court of Appeal reversed the disciplinary action in a split (2-1) decision with a strong dissent. USC filed a petition for review with the California Supreme Court arguing that the Court of Appeal’s recent jurisprudence, including this case, requires more procedural protection for cases involving violence against women than any other type of administrative procedure, including for cheating on examinations that can also lead to expulsion. WLALA joined an amicus letter to the California Supreme Court advocating that students accused of violence against women not be entitled to greater procedural protections than any other type of administrative hearing in a university setting.
Doe v. Fairfax County School Board, Case No. 1:18-cv-00846-LMB-TCB, 4th Circuit (2020): The suit alleged that Fairfax County Public Schools failed to properly address a student-on-student sexual assault, in violation of Title IX. At the conclusion of trial, the jury absolved the school board from liability because it erroneously equated the “actual notice” standard-which requires that a school official actually knows about a sexual harassment complaint-with requiring a school official to know that the sexual assault actually occurred. As a result, despite clear evidence that school officials received more than one report of the sexual assault, the jury never considered whether the school board was deliberately indifferent to the assault and thus violated Title IX. WLALA joined an amicus brief in support of the appeal to the Fourth Circuit.
Parents for Privacy v. Dallas School Dist. No. 2, Case No. 18-35708, 9th Circuit (2019): WLALA joined an amicus brief to urge the Court to affirm the district court’s decision to dismiss Appellants’ case on the basis that: (1) the mere 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; (2) sex-based protections in federal civil rights laws and the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection provision include protections for transgender students and so dismantling the Plan would create impermissible sex-based discrimination against transgender students; (3) there are documented harms faced by transgender students particularly when they are not permitted to use facilities that align with their gender identities; and (4) Appellants’ conclusory arguments against the Plan rest on the same brand of sex stereotyping historically used to justify sex discrimination, including in the context of racial segregation, and such arguments are rejected by courts in this day and age. Additionally, the signatories reject a framework that pits the rights of non-transgender (“cisgender”) and transgender individuals against each other; amici assert that persons of all genders and sexual orientations should find common cause in addressing the actual harms created by sex discrimination through the protections contained in our federal civil rights laws and the U.S. Constitution.