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Amicus Briefs INTRODUCTION

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.

ADL in the Courts — Amicus Update Learn More About ADL in the Courts


Recent Amicus Briefs

Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama (U.S. Supreme Court, 2014)

At issue in this case is Alabama's redistricting plan after the 2010 census. When Alabama redrew its district lines the drafters created supermajorities in majority-minority districts, sometimes creating districts that were more than 75 percent black. The Alabama Democratic Conference and the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus filed lawsuits arguing that, in drawing the district lines the way it did, Alabama unconstitutionally engaged in racial gerrymandering and diluted minorities' political power in other districts. ADL urged the Supreme Court to strike down the redistricting plan as unconstitutional, arguing that because the State subordinated traditional race-neutral redistricting principles to race-based considerations, the Court should analyze the redistricting plan with the highest level of scrutiny. ADL argued that Alabama's plan should be struck down because it was not narrowly tailored to fit the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.

Download Brief (PDF)


Wolf v. Walker (U.S.C.A. 7th Circuit, 2014)

This case challenges Wisconsin’s Marriage Ban, a state law that defines marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman. ADL filed a brief on behalf of a coalition of 25 organizations arguing that overturning the marriage ban would not only ensure that religious considerations do not improperly influence which marriages the state can recognize, but would also allow religious groups to decide the definition of marriage for themselves.

Download Brief (PDF)


Baskin v. Bogan (U.S.C.A. 7th Circuit, 2014)

This case challenges Indiana's Marriage Ban, a state law that defines marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman. ADL filed a brief on behalf of a coalition of 25 organizations arguing that overturning the marriage ban would not only ensure that religious considerations do not improperly influence which marriages the state can recognize, but would also allow religious groups to decide the definition of marriage for themselves.

Download Brief (PDF)


Zivotofsky v. Kerry (U.S. Supreme Court, 2014)

This case involves the right of American citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their place of birth on their passports, rather than just "Jerusalem." Despite a 2002 law directing the Secretary of State, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen's legal guardian, to record the place of birth as Israel, the State Department manual currently provides that the passports of American citizens born in Jerusalem must say "Jerusalem," reflecting official U.S. government policy regarding the unresolved status of Jerusalem. Following the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court directing the case back to the lower court for review on the merits, ADL again led an unusually broad-based coalition of other Jewish organizations, in addition to the Association of Proud American Citizens Born in Jerusalem, Israel, in filing an amicus brief which argued that "a passport is not a statement of foreign policy," but rather simply involves a ministerial act "a means of identifying and differentiating citizens" based on information they provide. Therefore the statute does not implicate the Executive Branch’s foreign policy power and it was within the power of Congress to legislate regarding the issuance of passports. ADL also argued that denying Jerusalem-born American citizens to identify Israel as their place of birth on their passports is discriminatory as that is a right presently accorded to American citizens born in territories not even recognized by the United States.

Download Brief (PDF)


Henry v. Himes (U.S.C.A. 6th Circuit, 2014)

This case challenges Ohio's Marriage Ban, a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman. ADL filed a brief on behalf of a coalition of 25 organizations arguing that overturning the marriage ban would not only ensure that religious considerations do not improperly influence which marriages the state can recognize, but would also allow religious groups to decide the definition of marriage for themselves.

Download Brief (PDF)


DeBoer v. Snyder (U.S.C.A. 6th Circuit, 2014)

This case challenges Michigan's Marriage Ban, a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman. ADL filed a brief on behalf of a coalition of 22 organizations arguing that overturning the marriage ban would not only ensure that religious considerations do not improperly influence which marriages the state can recognize, but would also allow religious groups to decide the definition of marriage for themselves.

Download Brief (PDF)


Bourke v. Beshear (U.S.C.A. 6th Circuit, 2014)

This case challenges Kentucky's Marriage Ban, a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman. ADL filed a brief on behalf of a coalition of 22 organizations arguing that overturning the marriage ban would not only ensure that religious considerations do not improperly influence which marriages the state can recognize, but would also allow religious groups to decide the definition of marriage for themselves.

Download Brief (PDF)


Tanco v. Haslam (U.S.C.A. 6th Circuit, 2014)

This case challenges Tennessee's Marriage Ban, a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman. ADL filed a brief on behalf of a coalition of 22 organizations arguing that overturning the marriage ban would not only ensure that religious considerations do not improperly influence which marriages the state can recognize, but would also allow religious groups to decide the definition of marriage for themselves.

Download Brief (PDF)


LaRue v. Colorado Board of Education (Colorado Supreme Court, 2014)

LaRue v. Colorado Board of Education challenges Colorado's school voucher program that allows state funding to flow to parochial schools. While the Supreme Court has interpreted the U.S. Constitution to permit similar programs in other states, the Colorado's constitution contains a No-Aid Clause that more explicitly prohibits direct and indirect state funding of religion. The ADL and a coalition of religious groups from multiple faiths argue that Colorado's No-Aid Clause and the U.S. Constitution's Religion Clauses are not synonymous, and that the former reflects Colorado's considered judgment that government funding of religion threatens religious liberty. Accordingly, the brief urges the Colorado Supreme court to find that the voucher program violates the state constitution.

Download Brief (PDF)


Holt v. Hobbs (U.S. Supreme Court, 2014)

This case challenges an Arkansas prison's decision to deny an observant Muslim the right to observe his faith by wearing a short beard. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) requires the State to offer a compelling reason for denying a prisoner's request to accommodate a sincerely-held religious belief, but courts around the country have applied the standard differently. ADL joined a coalition of religious organizations urging the Supreme Court to "apply uniform, rigorous standards before accepting that prison officials have properly denied a prisoner of sincere belief the religious accommodation he or she seeks."

Download Brief (PDF)


Bostic v. Schaefer (U.S.C.A. 4th Circuit, 2014)

This case challenges Virginia's Marriage Ban, a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman. ADL filed a brief on behalf of a coalition of 20 organizations arguing that overturning the marriage ban would not only ensure that religious considerations do not improperly influence which marriages the state can recognize, but would also allow religious groups to decide the definition of marriage for themselves.

Download Brief (PDF)


Bishop v. Smith (U.S.C.A. 10th Circuit, 2014)

This case challenges Oklahoma's Marriage Ban, a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman. ADL filed a brief on behalf of a coalition of 26 organizations arguing that overturning the marriage ban would not only ensure that religious considerations do not improperly influence which marriages the state can recognize, but would also allow religious groups to decide the definition of marriage for themselves.

Download Brief (PDF) Download Appendix (PDF)


United States v. Miller et al. (U.S.C.A. 6th Circuit, 2014)

The Defendants in this case are challenging the constitutionality of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA). The Anti-Defamation League filed an amicus brief on behalf of 40 nationally-prominent civil rights, human rights, religious, educational and law enforcement organizations urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to uphold the constitutionality of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and to affirm that it applies to cases in which the religiously-motivated violence involves victims and perpetrators who share the same faith. The brief is the first coalition brief filed in any challenge to the constitutionality of the HCPA.

Download Brief (PDF)


Kitchen v. Herbert (U.S.C.A. 10th Circuit, 2014)

This case challenges Utah’s Marriage Ban, a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman. ADL filed a brief on behalf of a coalition of 26 organizations arguing that overturning the marriage ban would not only ensure that religious considerations do not improperly influence which marriages the state can recognize, but would also allow religious groups to decide the definition of marriage for themselves.

Download Brief (PDF) Download Appendix (PDF)


Al Falah Center v. Township of Bridgewater (U.S.C.A. 3rd Circuit, 2014)

At issue in this case is a claim by a Muslim congregation in Bridgewater, NJ that the municipality adopted a land use ordinance to block conversion of a former banquet facility, purchased by the Congregation, into a mosque. The Interfaith Coalition on Mosques (ICOM)'s amicus brief contends that the township’s conduct violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which safeguards the religious freedom of houses of worship and other institutions in the land-use context by requiring courts to apply a strict standard for reviewing laws that substantially burden religious exercise. ICOM was formed by the Anti-Defamation League in 2010 to assist Muslim communities confronting opposition to the legal building, expansion or relocation of their mosques.

Download Brief (PDF)


Burwell, et al. v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et al. (U.S. Supreme Court, 2014)

At issue in this case is a challenge by owners of for-profit, secular corporations to the federal Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate. The mandate requires the corporations to provide employees with comprehensive health insurance, including birth control coverage, or to pay a modest tax, which is generally lower than the aggregate cost of employee health insurance. The owners and corporations claim that the contraception mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA") by "substantially burdening" their religious exercise. ADL's amicus brief argues that for multiple reasons, including the corporations having the option of not providing comprehensive health insurance, any burden on religious exercise posed by the mandate is incidental and therefore it does not violate RFRA.

Download Brief (PDF) Download Decision (PDF)


Duncan v. State of New Hampshire (New Hampshire Supreme Court, 2014)

At issue in this case is the New Hampshire Education Tax Credit Program, which authorizes New Hampshire businesses to redirect up to 85% of taxes owed as donations to K-12 "scholarship organizations," which pay for tuition at private religious and secular schools. In addition to undermining separation of church and state, the Program directs public funds to private religious and secular schools that discriminate against students and teachers. ADL's brief focuses on this discrimination issue arguing that the Program violates the New Hampshire constitution because its minimal anti-discrimination prohibitions allow public financing of private schools that discriminate against students and teachers on the basis of religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and other personal characteristics.

Download Brief (PDF)


Arce, et al. v. Huppenthal (U.S.C.A. 9th Circuit, 2013)

At issue in this case is Arizona law HB 2281, which bars public schools from 1) promoting the overthrow of the government; 2) promoting resentment towards a race or class of people; 3) designing programs primarily for students of a particular ethnic group; and 4) advocating ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals. The legislative history of the bill makes clear that its intent was to dismantle the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican-American Studies program (MAS), despite the program’s success in closing the educational achievement gap for Latino students. After passage of the law, the State Superintendent ordered the school district to dismantle the MAS program. MAS staff and students filed suit. ADL joined a brief written by the Chief Earl Warren Institute for Law and Social Policy, which argues that the lower court erred in failing to consider fully how the law violates equal protection guarantees.

Download Brief (PDF)


McCullen v. Coakley (U.S. Supreme Court, 2013)

In this case, the Supreme Court will be considering the constitutionality of a Massachusetts law creating a buffer zone around reproductive health clinics. ADL's brief urges the Supreme Court to recognize that other legislatures and courts have relied on the Supreme Court's previous rulings to adopt and approve a substantial body of law regarding buffer zones. If the Supreme Court decides that the Massachusetts buffer zone law is invalid, then the Court must also be willing to accept that protesters may crowd the doors of synagogues, churches, and mosques, chanting slogans at worshippers as they enter, and that picketers may mingle with the mourners at military funerals, confronting grieving parents with placards proclaiming, "Thank God for Dead Soldiers."

Download Brief (PDF) Download Decision (PDF)


Mount Holly Township v. Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc. (U.S. Supreme Court, 2013)

In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court will review a key provision of the Fair Housing Act. Enacted in the wake of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s tragic assassination in 1968, the Fair Housing Act is our nation's key tool to eradicate housing discrimination and promote more inclusive neighborhoods. The Mount Holly case raises the question whether the Fair Housing Act prohibits not just intentional bigotry but also unjustified practices that disproportionately exclude or harm people based on race, ethnicity, religion, family status, or other characteristics covered by the Act. This principle, known as the "disparate impact" standard, has been the law of the land for over four decades. In fact, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued regulations earlier this year that again confirm this approach. ADL joined an amicus brief filed on behalf of a coalition of organizations arguing that the Act's disparate impact component remains necessary to protect crucial anti-discrimination and desegregative interests that Congress targeted in passing and amending the Act and that the disparate impact standard is essential to realizing those benefits by addressing the myriad and evolving barriers to fair housing that continue to exist in the 21st century.

Download Brief (PDF)


Sevcik v. Sandoval and Jackson v. Abercrombie (U.S.C.A. 9th Circuit, 2013)

The Nevada case, Sevcik v. Sandoval, was brought by four same-sex couples who sought marriage licenses in Nevada and four more couples who had been married in California and Canada and sought recognition of those marriages in Nevada. The Hawaii case, Jackson v. Abercrombie, contested the constitutionality of both the state's ban on same-sex marriage and its recognition of civil unions only. The two cases have been combined into a single appeal. ADL filed a brief on behalf of a coalition of 29 organizations arguing that overturning the marriage bans not only would ensure that religious considerations do not improperly influence what marriages the two states can recognize but also would allow religious groups to decide the definition of marriage for themselves.

Download Brief (PDF)


People v. DeLee (New York Court of Appeals 2013)

In a 2009 trial, DeLee was convicted of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime, under New York State’s hate crime law, a law patterned after ADL's Model Law. The jury also found DeLee not guilty on a second count, which was described to the jury as including manslaughter "but not as a hate crime." DeLee's attorneys appealed the verdict, arguing that the two verdicts contradicted each other and that therefore the conviction should be reversed. The Appellate Division agreed and on a 4-1 decision in July reversed the conviction, and DeLee was immediately released from prison. ADL joined a distinguished group of organizations urging the Court to reinstate the conviction so that justice may be served.

Download Brief (PDF)


Town of Greece v. Galloway (U.S. Supreme Court, 2013)

This case addresses whether the constitutionally-mandated separation of church and state was violated when a town council in upstate New York began each of its meetings with a sectarian prayer led by a member of the clergy or local citizen. This is the first time in 30 years that the Supreme Court will consider a case addressing the issue of legislative prayer. ADL, a longstanding advocate for church-state separation, joined with the American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union and Interfaith Alliance Foundation in a coalition brief in this case.

Download Brief (PDF)


Griego v. Toulouse (New Mexico Supreme Court, 2013)

This case is about allowing loving, committed same-sex couples in New Mexico to receive a marriage license and the State respecting those marriages on equal footing as all others. The question at issue in this case concerns whether or not the New Mexico constitution allows same-sex couples to marry. ADL, a longtime supporter of marriage equality, joined a group of civil rights organizations on a coalition brief in support of the freedom to marry.

Download Brief (PDF)


Kountze Independent School District v. Matthews (Texas Appellate Court, 9th District, 2013)

In this case cheerleaders at Kountze High School, a public high school in Texas, displayed large run-through banners with biblical quotes on them at school football games. After a spectator complained about the religious messages, the high school principal temporarily barred the cheerleaders from displaying the banners, and the cheerleaders filed a lawsuit. ADL filed an amicus brief in the case arguing that the banners violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, constituting an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by a public school.

Download Brief (PDF)


Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (U.S. Supreme Court, 2013)

This case involves a ballot initiative in Michigan that barred state colleges and universities from “discriminat[ing] against, or granting[ing] preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.” Lower courts interpreted this constitutional amendment to bar the use of any and all affirmative action programs. ADL filed a brief arguing that there is a difference between affirmative action programs that consider race as one of many factors in a holistic review of applicants and programs, like quotas, that impermissibly grant preferential treatment based on race. The brief urged the Supreme Court to return the case to the lower courts to decide whether the amendment bars all affirmative action programs or only those that confer preferential treatment based on race.

Download Brief (PDF)


Kant v. Lexington Theological Seminary (Kentucky Supreme Court, 2013)

At issue in this case is whether the "ecclesiastical matter" bar or the ministerial exception defense would act to bar a Jewish professor's breach-of-contract claim against the Christian theological seminary at which he had tenure for terminating his employment because of a financial emergency. ADL argued that neither the "ecclesiastical matter" bar nor the ministerial exception defense would bar a breach-of-contract claim. Religious organizations, like their secular counterparts, are always free to bargain with their employees for certain contractual protections and thus avail themselves to the neutral principles of contract law. But, having done so, they are not free to demand from government a special exemption from the legal consequences of those bargains.

Download Brief (PDF)


University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar (U.S. Supreme Court, 2013)

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.

Download Brief (PDF)


United States v. Windsor (U.S. Supreme Court, 2013)

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.

Download Brief (PDF)


Hollingsworth v. Perry (U.S. Supreme Court, 2013)

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.

Download Brief (PDF)


Shelby County v. Holder (U.S. Supreme Court, 2013)

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.

Download Brief (PDF)


O'Brien v. HHS (U.S.C.A. 8th Circuit, 2013)
Newland v. Sebelius (U.S.C.A. 10th Circuit, 2013)
Korte v. HHS and Grote v. Sebelius (U.S.C.A. 7th Circuit, 2013)
Autocam Corporation v. Sebelius (U.S.C.A. 6th Circuit, 2013)
Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius (U.S.C.A. 10th Circuit, 2013)
Legatus v. Sebelius (U.S.C.A. 6th Circuit, 2013)
Liberty University v. Lew (U.S.C.A. 4th Circuit, 2013)
Annex Medical v. Sebelius (U.S.C.A. 8th Circuit, 2013)
Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation v. Sebelius (U.S.C.A. 3rd Circuit, 2013)
Gilardi v. HHS (U.S.C.A. DC Circuit, 2013)
Eden Foods v. Sebelius (U.S.C.A. 6th Circuit, 2013)

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.

Download O'Brien Brief (PDF) Download Newland Brief (PDF) Download Korte Brief (PDF)

Download Autocam Brief (PDF) Download Hobby Lobby Brief (PDF) Download Legatus Brief (PDF)

Download Liberty University Brief (PDF) Download Annex Medical Brief (PDF)

Download Conestoga Wood Brief (PDF) Download Gilardi Brief (PDF) Download Eden Foods Brief (PDF)


Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (U.S. Supreme Court, 2012)

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.

Download 2012 Brief (PDF) Download 2011 Brief (PDF)


Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (U.S. Supreme Court, 2012)

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.

Download Brief (PDF)


Fisher v. University of Texas (U.S. Supreme Court, 2012)

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.

Download Brief (PDF)