LGBTQ+ Rights: Bostock v Clayton County
Heard on October 8, 2019; Decided on June 15, 2020
“An employer violates Title VII when it intentionally fires an individual employee based in part on sex.” (Opinion: Gorsuch)
Significance: LGBTQ+ individuals cannot be fired on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Issue Presented: Does Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits against employment discrimination “because of . . . sex” encompass discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation?
Facts and Holding: Gerald Bostock, a gay man, had a successful ten-year career with Clayton County, Georgia, receiving numerous accolades and positive performance evaluations. Shortly after joining a gay softball league, Bostock recieved criticism for his participation in the league and for his sexual orienataion. Around the same time, Clayton County notified Bostock that it would be conducting an internal audit of the program funds he managed. Shortly afterwards, Clayton County terminated Bostock allegedly for “conduct unbecoming of its employees.”
Immigration: Department of Homeland Security v Regents of the University of California
Heard on November 12, 2019; Decided on June 18, 2020
“Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous is- sues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner.” (Opinion: Roberts)
Significance: The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will remain intact, shielding hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients from deportation, for the time being.
Issue Presented: Is the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy judicially reviewable? Is DHS’s decision to wind down the DACA policy lawful?
Facts and Holding: In 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) adopted a program—known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)—to postpone the deportation of undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children and to assign them work permits allowing them to obtain social security numbers and pay taxes. In 2017, after the national election, when the Trump administration replaced the Obama administration, DHS began a phase-out of DACA. The plaintiffs in this case content that the Trump administration terminated DACA based on a conclusion that the Obama administration had created DACA “without proper statutory authority and with no established end-date” and thus that it was an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.”
Environmental Justice: United States Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association
Heard on February 24, 2020; Decided on June 15, 2020
“The lands that the Trail crosses remain under the Forest Service’s jurisdiction and, thus, continue to be “Federal lands” under the Leasing Act.” (Opinion: Thomas)
Significance: The gas pipeline, now essentially approved for construction, will cut through parts of the Appalachian Trail, disrupting the land’s water supply and much of the United States’s biodiversity.
Issue Presented: Does the U.S. Forest Service have the authority to grant rights-of-way under the Mineral Leasing Act through lands traversed by the Appalachian Trail within national forests?
Facts and Holding: The Appalachian Trail spans over 2,000 miles, crossing through lands within national forests. In 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC authorization to construct, operate, and maintain a natural gas pipeline that would cross the Trail. The Forest Service authorized the construction, finding it had authority under the Mineral Leasing Act to grant a right-of-way for the pipeline and that the pipeline “would have no long lasting impacts” on the Trail. Cowpasture River Preservation Association filed a petition for review of the Forest Service’s record of decision and special use permit. The court determined that the Forest Service lacked authority to grant pipeline rights of way.
Prisoner Rights: Lomax v Ortiz-Marquez
Heard on February 26, 2020; Decided on June 8, 2020
“The text of Section 1915(g)’s three-strikes provision refers to any dismissal for failure to state a claim, whether with prejudice or without.” (Opinion: Kagan)
Significance: The three-strike provision prevents a prisoner from bringing a suit against prison officials without paying the court fee if the prisoner has already had three or more prior suits dismissed. This ruling reinforces the financial obstacles that prisoners face in seeking legal recourse by expanding the definition of a “strike.”
Issue Presented: Does a dismissal without prejudice for failure to state a claim count as a strike under the Prison Litigation Reform Act?
Facts and Holding: The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 established what has become known as the three-strikes rule, which generally prevents a prisoner from bringing suit in forma pauperis (without paying the usual court fees) if they have had three or more prior suits dismissed on certain grounds. Arthur Lomax, an inmate in a Colorado prison, filed this suit against respondent prison officials to challenge his expulsion from the facility’s sex-offender treatment program. He moved for IFP status, but he had already brought three unsuccessful legal actions during his time in prison. Lomax argued that because the prior dismissals were without prejudice, they do not count as strikes.
HIV/AIDS: United States Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc.
Heard on May 5, 2020; Decided June 29, 2020
“Because plaintiffs’ foreign affiliates possess no First Amendment rights, applying the Policy Requirement to them is not unconstitutional.” (Opinion: Kavanaugh)
Significance: The U.S. government can encourage the criminalization of sex work abroad by restricting funding to organizations that are fighting HIV/AIDS.
Issue Presented: Does the Court’s decision in U.S. Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International Inc.—which holds that the First Amendment prohibits Congress from enforcing a law that would have required U.S.-based organizations that receive federal funds to fight HIV/AIDS abroad to “have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking”—imply that Congress may not enforce that law with respect to entities not directly involved in that case?
Facts and Holding: The Alliance for Open Society International and other organizations receive funding from the U.S. government to help with their mission of fighting HIV/AIDS abroad. The government provides the funds on the condition that “no funds be used to provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.” In U.S. Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International Inc., decided in 2013, the Court held that the condition compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment. The government continued to apply the condition to foreign affiliates of the Alliance for Open Society International, and the organization sued, asking for permanent injunctive relief. The district court granted the requested relief, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed.