The Anti-Defamation League ("ADL") was founded in 1913 to combat the anti-Semitism and discrimination against Jews that was prevalent at the time. Fairly soon after its establishment, ADL's mission expanded to include the eradication of bias and discrimination against people of all races and religions. Amicus curiae, literally "friend of the court," briefs have proven to be one of the most effective means of achieving this goal. Such briefs are filed by groups which are not parties to a particular dispute but nevertheless have a stake in its outcome. As a civil rights organization with a stake in many different types of civil rights litigation, ADL has filed amicus briefs in cases involving issues that range from the separation of church and state to racial discrimination to censorship.
This case addresses whether the retaliation provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and other similarly worded statutes require a plaintiff to prove but-for causation (i.e., that an employer would not have taken an adverse employment action but for an improper motive), or instead require only proof that the employer had a mixed motive (i.e., that an improper motive was one of multiple reasons for the employment action). ADL joined a distinguished group of organizations urging the Court to find that Title VII is violated if an illegitimate motive plays a meaningful role in an adverse employment decision.
Edith Windsor married her spouse, Thea Spyer, in Canada in 2007. Spyer died in 2009 following a long illness. Because Section 3 of DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples, Windsor was unable to claim the estate tax deduction available to the spouses of straight married couples and was required to pay more than $360,000 in taxes. Windsor sued the federal government for failing to recognize her marriage. ADL submitted a brief urging the Court to find DOMA unconstitutional because it improperly enshrines one particular religious view of marriage into civil law.
Proposition 8, the California ballot measure restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples, was held unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals because it violates our nation’s fundamental concepts of liberty and equality. ADL submitted a brief urging the Court to affirm the lower court’s decision and reject arguments that religious or moral disapproval is a legitimate basis for a law that strips Californians of their state right to a civil marriage.
This case is a second challenge to the constitutionality of Congress’ 2006 decision to extend Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act for an additional 25 years. In 2009, in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder, the United States Supreme Court declined to rule on the constitutionality of the VRA extension, finding instead that Northwest Austin was entitled to “bail out” of the requirements of Section 5. This case places squarely before the Court the question of whether the extension was constitutional. ADL once again joined with the nearly 200 organizations that comprise the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and urged the Court to uphold the VRA extension, arguing that it was reasonable for Congress to conclude that Section 5 is still necessary, and that history shows that gains in minority political participation can be reversed if the political branches and the courts fail vigilantly to protect them.
In 2010 Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA’s contraception mandate requires that health insurance provided by employers covered by the ACA must afford the full range of reproductive services, including birth control coverage, to female employees. In these cases private, non-religious corporations filed suit alleging that the contraception mandate violated their right to free exercise of religion. ADL submitted briefs urging the court to uphold the ACA’s contraception mandate.
Kiobel involves a group of Nigerians filing a lawsuit in the U.S. against three oil companies, seeking to hold them liable for human rights abuses allegedly committed on their behalf by Nigerian soldiers. It invokes the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which allows foreigners to bring lawsuits in U.S. federal courts for serious violations of international human rights laws. The issue before the Court was whether the ATS permits actions against defendant organizations and corporations, or whether they were intended to apply only against natural persons. In 2011 ADL joined a coalition brief supporting the position that Congress did not intend to limit the ATS only to actions against natural persons. The Court did not decide Kiobel but rather ordered it be reargued in 2012, and expanded the scope of its review to include whether ATS applied to violations of international law when those occurred on foreign soil. ADL again joined a coalition brief supporting the position that Congress did not intend to limit the ATS only to actions arising in U.S. territories. In its decision, the Court dismissed the complaint in this case, holding that in general ATS cannot be the basis for a lawsuit in the U.S. when all the conduct occurs in a foreign country with a functioning, legitimate government.
This case addresses Proposition 200, an Arizona law requiring would-be voters to provide proof of citizenship to register to vote. ADL joined a brief written by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund that urges the Supreme Court to strike down the law. The brief documents a pattern in United States history characterized by an expansion of the right to vote followed by attempts to disenfranchise minority voters. It argues that, in accord with this pattern, the National Voter Registration Act was an important step towards universal suffrage, and that Proposition 200 is a step backwards that seeks to disenfranchise Latino voters.
This case concerns the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Texas at Austin. The case asks that the court either declare the admissions policy of the University inconsistent with, or entirely overrule Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that race could play a limited role in the admissions policies of universities. ADL urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the University of Texas' admissions policy, saying that the policy does not impose quotas, assign people to categories based on their race, or use race as a determinative factor in making admissions decisions. Rather, its consideration of race as only one factor in a holistic review of each application is a proper means to achieve a diverse student body.