Women Lawyers’ Lives, Careers Will Suffer Without Abortion Right, Brief Warns Justices

Women Lawyers’ Lives, Careers Will Suffer Without Abortion Right, Brief Warns Justices

Pro-abortion rights protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on May 21, 2019. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

Reposted from The National Law Journal (Read the full article)
By Marcia Coyle

Losing the right to determine when to have children would devastate women’s ability to advance their legal careers and achieve gender parity, more than 30 organizations of women lawyers and law students told the U.S. Supreme Court in an amicus brief in the new term’s latest abortion fight.

The organizations, in the brief by Mia Guizzetti Hayes, counsel at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, emphasize “reliance” on the abortion right as the key factor in the justices’ analysis of whether to accept Mississippi’s request that they overturn their landmark abortion rights rulings in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

“Mississippi’s claim that women have been able to reach society’s highest echelon without reliance on the right to decide to end a pregnancy is simply wrong,” the brief states. “While Congress has passed some laws that provide some support for parents, many women throughout the legal profession continue to experience significant setbacks to career advancement if they cannot decide the timing and size of their families. Amici members have personally relied on the guarantee of bodily autonomy to advance their own careers and women’s position in the legal field as a whole.”

The amicus brief by Hayes, associate Ciara Copell and a team of Willkie Farr lawyers is one of more than 50 filed in recent days on behalf of the Mississippi abortion clinic in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Thomas Dobbs is head of the state’s Department of Health.

Mississippi initially asked the justices in its petition for review to decide whether all pre-viability prohibitions on abortions are unconstitutional. The state said the case could be decided without overturning Roe or Casey. But when it filed its brief on the merits after the court granted review, the state explicitly urged the court to overrule Roe and Casey as “egregiously wrong.”

The lead organizations on the Willkie Farr amicus brief are Women Lawyers on Guard, the National Association of Women Lawyers and the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia. Other organizations include Oregon Women Lawyers, the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Alliance, North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys, Rhode Island Women’s Bar Association, Hawaii Women Lawyers and Women’s Law Student Association at the University of Wisconsin School of Law.

The brief highlights statistics about ongoing discrimination against women lawyers in the legal profession, particularly mothers and women of color. For example, women represent less than one-fourth of law firm equity partners, despite representing 40% of associates; 54% of women in the law are fully in charge of arranging child care as compared with just 1% of men, and 32% of women in the law are responsible for leaving work early for child care as compared to just 4% of men, and 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 child care.

Gender parity, the brief states, is not expected to occur until 2181, according to one study.

“Considering the limited resources and opportunities available to women lawyers with children, particularly against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic, losing the ability to decide whether and when to have their children, and how many children to have, would undoubtedly be detrimental to women lawyers’ careers,” the brief states.

Willkie Farr’s Copell, whom Hayes called “instrumental in putting together the brief, said, “As soon as the Supreme Court took up this case, we were very eager to get involved.” The firm also filed an amicus brief in the 2020 abortion case, June Medical Services v. Russo.

Women Lawyers On Guard, Copell said, was “ready to go” as soon as the court took the Mississippi case. It and the other two named organizations became the core group behind the amicus brief. “They utilized their network across the country with other women lawyer groups to get a critical mass,” Copell said. “Willkie used our network to reach other other women’s lawyer organizations. It was a conscious decision to include law students as well as they are going through the same things women lawyers have been and are still going through.”

The amicus brief is reminiscent of a powerful amicus brief filed by women lawyers in the 2016 case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. In that brief, filed by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, 113 women lawyers signed their names and detailed their own abortion stories and the abortion rights’ impact on their careers and families.

A Paul Weiss team of lawyers has been assisting the Center for Reproductive Rights in the Mississippi abortion case since the litigation began.

Reliance on the abortion right has only grown with the passage of time, the new amicus brief tells the court.

“Under the principle of stare decisis, the court in Casey upheld the central holding in Roe in part because it recognized that ‘an entire generation has come of age’ relying on ‘Roe’s concept of liberty in defining the capacity of women to act in society, and to make reproductive decisions.’” the brief states. “Now, close to thirty years after Casey, this statement applies to every woman of childbearing age in the United States.”

Copell said the justices have expressed that reliance is one of the most important factors. “Here it’s a little bit of a slam dunk in the fact that women have relied on this right for the last 40 years,” she said. “It was a particular honor to write this one from the perspective of women lawyers who have both professional and personal knowledge on this subject matter.”

Hayes added, “We’ve planned lives, careers, education and families in reliance on this right.”

Letter from Cory Amron re: Joint Amicus Brief Submitted to U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health

Letter from Cory Amron re: Joint Amicus Brief Submitted to U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health

Pro-choice protesters march down Congress Avenue and back to the Texas state capitol in Austin, Texas. Photo: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

Dear Women Lawyers on Guard Inc.,

There is no doubt that the Mississippi 15-week abortion ban is unconstitutional (as, of course is the Texas 6-week ban- but that’s another case.) However, because the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it is pretty clear that they are planning to severely restrict women’s reproductive rights guaranteed for almost 50 years by Roe v Wade, Casey and their progeny, if not overturn these cases. Why do we say this? Because the conservative Fifth Circuit appeals court found that the Mississippi ban was clearly unconstitutional. So if the Supreme Court were to follow precedent, they would have no need to take this case.

Women Lawyers On Guard Inc. has just filed an amicus brief before the Supreme Court in the Dobbs case. It argues strongly that the Mississippi ban should be struck down under precedent of Roe, Casey, etc. and that stare decisis and reliance dictate this result. WLG’s co-leads on the brief are the National Association of Women Lawyers and the Women’s Bar Association of DC. Willkie Farr served as our pro bono counsel. 28 additional women’s bars, women’s law student groups, or women’s legal organizations have signed onto the brief in which we argue that women and particularly women lawyers have relied on these reproductive rights to plan their families, get their education, pursue their jobs and careers.

Amicus for the State of Mississippi has said that women have made these strides without the need for reproductive rights. That’s balderdash.

Here’s a link to our brief.

We have spent hundreds of volunteer hours on this amicus effort. We would appreciate any donation you can make to help us continue our operations. WLG is a 501(c)(3) organization -donations are tax deductible.

 

Thank you for your contribution to our efforts. To donate click here.

 

My best,

Cory

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

Contacts:

Elaine Metlin, Women Lawyers On Guard, emetlin@gmail.com
Karen M. Richardson, National Association of Women Lawyers, krichardson@nawl.org
Carol Montoya, Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia, carol@wbadc.org

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.  https://womenlawyersonguard.org/

    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. https://www.nawl.org/

    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. https://wbadc.org/

    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. https://www.willkie.com/

    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<https://womenlawyersonguard.us15.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c2312611909237616b06efbcf&id=5fb6f7b4f1&e=99020be48c>.

    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 <https://womenlawyersonguard.us15.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c2312611909237616b06efbcf&id=f5b78e9bfd&e=99020be48c>.

    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.”