Joint Amicus Brief Submitted to U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health

Joint Amicus Brief Submitted to U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health

Organizations of Women Lawyers Defend Women’s Constitutional Abortion Rights in Joint Amicus Brief Submitted to U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health


Elaine Metlin, Women Lawyers On Guard,
Karen M. Richardson, National Association of Women Lawyers,
Carol Montoya, Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia,

September 20, 2021 — More than 30 organizations of women lawyers and future legal professionals, led by three notable U.S. organizations of women lawyers, submitted an amicus brief in support of respondents in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which could overturn Roe v. Wade and the almost 50 years of constitutional jurisprudence guaranteeing reproductive freedom to women.

Led by Women Lawyers On Guard, National Association of Women Lawyers and the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia, and submitted by Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP as counsel for amici, the brief lays out what is at stake if the Supreme Court overturns or weakens Roe.  Women and their families, including women attorneys, have relied heavily on the constitutional guarantee of the ability to decide whether to have an abortion when exercising autonomy over their lives, health, families and futures. Loss of the rights guaranteed by Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey would decimate women lawyers’ ability to advance their careers and achieve gender parity in the legal field.

Co-leads of this brief issued this joint statement regarding the brief:

Women Lawyers On Guard Inc.: “Women Lawyers On Guard is proud to co-lead this amicus brief explaining why the Supreme Court should uphold Roe and Casey under the doctrine of stare decisis.  A key factor of the stare decisis analysis is societal reliance.  Women’s reliance on the reproductive rights guaranteed by Roe and Casey has forever changed society and enabled women to make great strides in the fight to achieve equality.  But even with reproductive freedom, progress toward gender parity in the legal profession has been agonizingly slow.  Women attorneys often pay a price for having children and many of them leave the legal profession altogether due to childcare responsibilities.  This cost is largely borne by women, not men.  If women lose the ability to plan their families, all of these gains will quickly be in serious jeopardy.  Roe and Casey must be upheld because they were correctly decided and because we simply cannot go back to a time where women have no freedom to make intimate decisions about their own bodies and lives,” said Cory Amron, President, Women Lawyers On Guard; Elaine Metlin, Co-chair, Amicus Committee, Women Lawyers On Guard.

National Association of Women Lawyers: ”The National Association of Women Lawyers is proud to co-lead this amicus brief with more than 30 organizations of women lawyers and future legal professionals. Women’s reliance on the reproductive rights guaranteed by Roe and Casey has enabled women to make great strides in the fight to achieve equality. Without bodily autonomy, including the legal right to decide whether, when, and by what means to have the number of children they desire, women cannot be fully equal under the law or professionally. The negative consequences that would result from overturning well-established legal precedent implicate every facet of women’s lives and health,” said Karen Richardson, Executive Director of the National Association of Women Lawyers.

Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia: “The Women’s Bar Association of DC proudly joins this brief to support the well-established legal precedent that women have a constitutional and fundamental right to privacy, which long has included access to reproductive health care including abortions,”  said Sadina Montani, Immediate Past President of the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia and partner at Crowell & Moring.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, counsel for amici: “We are proud to partner with these leading organizations supporting women in the legal profession and to bring the unique perspective of women lawyers and law students to the critical issues at stake in this case,” said Heather Schneider, partner at Willkie and lead counsel on the brief.

“This case raises serious issues that significantly affect women’s constitutional rights and the advancement of women attorneys. We hope our brief sheds light on the impact of this case on women in the legal profession,” said Mia Guizzetti Hayes, counsel at Willkie and counsel of record on the brief.

The brief specifically highlights the central role that Roe’s and Casey’s constitutional right to bodily autonomy has played in the advancement of women in the law, as well as the steep hurdles still faced by female lawyers generally—and especially female lawyers of color and those with children—that will only become harder to surmount if that right were revoked or weakened.  While it is true that there are many more women lawyers and judges today than there were when Roe and Casey were decided, there is still discrimination against women—especially mothers and women of color—in the legal profession. For example:

  • Women represent less than ¼ of law firm equity partners, despite representing 40% of associate ranks.
  • Women of color in particular represent only 15% of law firm associates and fewer than 4% of law firm partners.
  • 54% of women in the law are fully in charge of arranging childcare as compared to just 1% of men, and 32% of women in the law are responsible for leaving work early for childcare as compared to just 4% of men.
  • Women are also likely to be passed over for certain projects after returning from maternity leave because of assumptions about their need to participate in childcare.
  • Women, especially women of color, report being treated particularly badly after having had children, reporting being passed up for promotions and given low-quality assignments; being demoted, paid less, and treated unfairly for working part-time; and other disparate treatment stemming from the misperception that women lawyers who are parents have chosen the “mommy track.”
  • These transgressions are felt more deeply since COVID-19 began. Women are working more hours from home than men and are less likely to use third-party day care services.  About half of women with children under age 13 consider becoming part-time or leaving the legal profession altogether.
  • Even without factoring in children, 70% of women of color report have left or seriously considered leaving the legal profession.

The amicus brief is also signed by nearly 30 other organizations dedicated to supporting women lawyers and law students.

    Women Lawyers On Guard Inc.

    Women Lawyers On Guard Inc. (WLG) is a national, non-profit organization that seeks to harness the power of lawyers and the law to preserve, protect, and defend the democratic values of equality, justice, and opportunity for all.  WLG focuses on securing the equal treatment of women by challenging laws and practices that discriminate against women, including gender-based violence and harassment and attempts to curtail women’s reproductive rights.

    National Association of Women Lawyers 

    The mission of the National Association of Women Lawyers is to provide leadership, a collective voice, and essential resources to advance women in the legal profession and advocate for the equality of women under the law. Since 1899, NAWL has been empowering women in the legal profession, cultivating a diverse membership dedicated to equality, mutual support, and collective success. To advance its mission, NAWL participates as amicus curiae before the United States Supreme Court and other federal courts in cases pertaining to women’s equal treatment under the law.

    Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia

    The Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia (“WBADC”) is one of the oldest women’s bar associations in the country.  Since 1917, it has advocated for the advancement of women in the profession and upheld its mission to maintain the honor and integrity of the legal profession, promote the administration of justice, advance and protect the interests of women lawyers, promote their mutual improvement, and encourage a spirit of friendship.  As an organization, WBADC is a catalyst for women helping women, and in support of its mission, it participates as amicus curiae before the Supreme Court of the United States and other courts throughout the nation to advocate for women in the legal profession and women’s rights more broadly.

    Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP

    Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP is an international law firm of approximately 1,000 attorneys with offices in Brussels, Chicago, Frankfurt, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Milan, New York, Palo Alto, Paris, Rome, San Francisco and Washington. The Firm is headquartered in New York City at 787 Seventh Avenue.

    WLG files important abortion-rights amicus brief

    WLG files important abortion-rights amicus brief

    WLG has filed its own amicus curiae brief in the Sixth Circuit case of Bristol Regional Women’s Center, P.C., v Slatery in support of the appellees, the clinics that successfully challenged Tennessee’s 48-hour statutory waiting period for abortions. [Brief HERE].  Bristol Regional, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, sued the State of Tennessee, arguing that the waiting period was unconstitutional.  At the conclusion of a four-day bench trial, the District Court held that the statute imposed significant burdens on those seeking abortions in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Tennessee appealed and asked the Court of Appeals to overturn that decision and hold that waiting periods on their face are constitutional, and to ignore or reject the facts found by the District Court in its comprehensive and detailed 136-page opinion.

    The Milbank law firm drafted this brief and our Amicus Committee Co-Chairs honed the argument: that the Court of Appeals must give the District Court’s factual findings deference and apply the “clear error” standard.  “There is no ‘abortion exception’ to the clear error standard…” argues our brief.  And, in fact, the Sixth  Circuit itself has “pledged to uphold a district court’s findings of fact unless those findings “strike us as wrong with the force of a five-week-old, unrefrigerated dead fish.’”  There was no error here by the District Court, let alone clear error.

    One would think that this argument – that the Court of Appeals must apply the clear error standard to the trial court’s factual findings — would be obvious and unnecessary.  But circuit courts all too often play fast and loose with the normal appellate rules when it comes to abortion cases.  In fact, just after we filed the brief, the entire Sixth Circuit ignored its own rules and precedent when it decided to hear the case en banc as an initial matter, bypassing entirely the three-judge panel that seemed likely to follow the law and keep the district court’s injunction in place.  Our brief, reminding the Court of Appeals of its role and duty to apply the clear error standard, is now an even more pointed reminder that the rule of law should be respected.  CRR was very appreciative of our amicus brief.

    WLG signs onto critical abortion Supreme Court brief

    WLG signs onto critical abortion Supreme Court brief

    WLG signed onto an amicus brief that has just been filed in the Supreme Court in the case of June Medical Services LLC v. Gee.  This is an exceedingly important reproductive rights case about a restrictive Louisiana anti-abortion law. It follows just three years on the heels of an identical Texas law already considered by the Supreme Court, and struck down as unconstitutional in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.  The only difference?  The composition of the Court, an extremely dangerous precedent (or should we say un-precedent) to set.

    You can read the amicus brief, filed by the National Women’s Law Center, HERE<>.

    You should also take a look at the “story” brief filed by 368 “legal professionals who have exercised their constitutional right to an abortion.”  It is exceptionally powerful, turning what is usually dry, legal arguments into vivid and compelling narratives. This brief is HERE <>.

    WLG Signs Onto Four “Public Charge” Amicus Briefs

    WLG Signs Onto Four “Public Charge” Amicus Briefs

    Women Lawyers on Guard signed onto four amicus briefs on the subject of who is a “public charge,” including La Clinica de la Raza v. Trump; State of California v. Department of Homeland Security; State of New York v. Department of Homeland Security, and Make the Road New York v. Cuccinelli.

    You may have read in the news that the Department of Homeland Security has implemented regulations that add a significant burden to those who seek to immigrate to the USA. The Immigration and Nationality Act bars an individual from obtaining a green card (and other legal statuses) if they are “likely” to “become a public charge.” Since Congress first introduced the term in 1882, “public charge” has been understood as including very specific programs, i.e. only someone who is dependent on the government to avoid destitution. Congress has never altered this longstanding meaning of “public charge.”

    However, the Department of Homeland Security has recently promulgated new regulations, set to take effect in mid-October unless stopped by these pending litigation cases. This rule adds significantly to the programs that immigrants cannot take advantage of and still hope to become legal. In addition, the rules have added a minimum income threshold as well as an English proficiency standard. Those who have studied the regulation have determined that huge swaths of legal citizens could not even meet these tests, and it has already dissuaded legal immigrants from accessing certain programs that have been accessible to them for decades
    The four amicus briefs that we have signed onto inform the court of the particularly detrimental effect this regulation will have on women.

    WLG Joins Important Amicus Brief on Rape Reporting

    WLG Joins Important Amicus Brief on Rape Reporting

    Women Lawyers On Guard just signed onto an amicus brief in Kesterson v Kent State University, U.S. Court of Appeals, 6th Cir.  At issue is who, at a University, a person who has been raped must report to before the school has liability.  Kesterson was raped by her softball coach’s son in her freshman year. When she finally summoned up the courage to tell her coach in her sophomore year, the coach (Karen Linder) did not report the rape to the Title IX office, as required by school policy. Instead, she told Kesterson not to tell anyone else, and retaliated against Kesterson.  Kesterson eventually told four more officials at Kent State including two assistant coaches and the Executive Director of the school’s Office of Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services.

    The District Court held that none of these reports gave the school “actual knowledge” and therefore the school had no liability or duty to respond, until Kesterson herself reported to the Title IX office a year later.  Needless to say, Kesterson suffered both academically and athletically.

    The amicus brief argues that the school received actual notice based on the actual knowledge of five school employees and that the “appropriate person” test developed in employee-student cases should not apply to peer-to-peer sexual harassment.

    NWLC Brief (as filed)

    Preliminary Injunction Against Administration’s Contraceptive Rules: Amicus Brief Quoted

    Preliminary Injunction Against Administration’s Contraceptive Rules: Amicus Brief Quoted

    The judges in both the cases in California and Pennsylvania have issued preliminary injunctions against the administration’s rules that would have enabled employers to opt out of providing insurance coverage of contraceptives.
    The amicus brief that WLG signed onto (which was filed in both cases) was quoted in the California opinion to substantiate that there are substantial costs, whether “financial, professional, or personal—to women who unintendedly become pregnant after losing access to the cost-free contraceptives to which they are entitled.”