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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.