Amicus Briefs

Related Program: Anti-Trafficking

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. AALDEF joined the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a coalition of civil rights organizations in an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of public accommodations laws that protect racial, ethnic, and religious minorities from discrimination. A Colorado baker refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple, claiming that being forced to bake a cake for a same-sex couple would violate his First Amendment right to free expression. The amicus brief contends that under public accommodations laws, businesses must be open on a nondiscriminatory basis to all individuals.

Lee v. Tam & Matal v. Tam. AALDEF joined an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of respondent Simon Tam, founder of an Asian American band named The Slants. Tam’s request for a trademark was denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office under a provision of the trademark law that prohibits the registration of “disparaging” marks. Tam claimed that the law improperly discriminates against viewpoints protected by the First Amendment, including their reappropriation of a racial slur to empower the Asian American community. In June 2017, the Supreme Court ruled against the government, deciding that the federal trademark law’s disparagement clause was facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s Free Speech clause and that The Slants were entitled to trademark their name. (ACLU)

Darweesh v. Trump (E.D.N.Y. 2017). AALDEF joined the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality and several civil rights organizations in an amicus brief in support of the challenge to the Trump administration’s Executive Order 13769. This Jan. 27, 2017 order suspended U.S. refugee admissions for 120 days, indefinitely halted the admissions of Syrian refugees, and banned immigrants and nonimmigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. AALDEF filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of 28 Asian American groups urging the Court to uphold Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which allows the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia to ensure that any proposed new voting rules do not discriminate against or disenfranchise minority voters. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula for Section 5 preclearance, Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act, in a 5-4 decision. (Co-counsel Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe)

Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Fisher is one of the most critical cases upholding the right of colleges to adopt affirmative action plans to ensure that students can benefit from a diverse and integrated student body. AALDEF filed three amicus briefs: when the case first reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 (Fisher I), on remand to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2013, and again in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 (Fisher II).

AALDEF filed an amicus brief in support of UT-Austin in the Supreme Court on behalf of the Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective (APAC) and the Asian/Asian American Faculty and Staff Association (AAAFSA) at UT-Austin, 18 other Asian American groups, and 44 individuals, including higher education officials and professors of law, education, and Asian American studies. In June 2016, the Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in favor of UT-Austin’s consideration of race as part of the holistic review of applicants in the admissions process. AALDEFs amicus brief was cited in Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion, which noted that the petitioner’s assertion that the university discriminates against Asian Americans is “entirely unsupported by evidence in the record or empirical data.” (co-counsel Foley Hoag)

United States v. Texas. In May 2016, AALDEF joined 325 civil rights, labor and immigrant rights’ groups in filing an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to lift the injunction against President Obama’s immigration executive actions announced in November 2014. In a 4-4 vote on June 23, 2016, the Court let stand a lower court decision upholding the nationwide injunction against the administration’s immigration actions to expand the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA protected undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation, and granted deferred action to the parents of U.S. citizens and green card holders (DAPA). While setting no precedent, this “non-decision” effectively blocks the administration’s new DAPA initiative and its expansion of the original DACA program. The case will ultimately make its way back to the U.S. District Court in Brownsville, Texas.

Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona. AALDEF filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging the legality of Arizona’s Proposition 200, the state’s restrictive voter registration law. AALDEF argued that Proposition 200 unfairly burdened naturalized citizens, who make up almost 40% of the state’s Asian American population. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Arizona’s Proposition 200, the state’s restrictive voter registration law, in a 7-2 decision. (co-counsel Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy)

Applewhite v. Pennsylvania. AALDEF and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association (APABA) of Pennsylvania filed an amicus brief in the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s restrictive voter ID requirement in 2012. AALDEF’s amicus brief demonstrated that Pennsylvania’s new photo ID requirements would have discriminatory impacts on Asian American voters. The brief detailed findings from election monitoring data compiled by AALDEF and other Asian American groups over the last decade. A preliminary injunction was issued on October 2, 2012, blocking the voter ID law from going into effect for the November 2012 election for voters casting ballots in person. In 2013, AALDEF and APABA-PA filed a second amicus brief in the trial for permanent injunction, which began in July 2013. (co-counsel White & Case)

Perry v. Perez. AALDEF filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm a Texas federal district court’s interim redistricting plan after the Department of Justice contended that the Texas state legislature’s plan diluted the voting power of Asian Americans and other people of color. Following a trial in January 2012, the three-judge district court in Washington, DC denied Section 5 preclearance on August 28, 2012 in a lengthy and mostly unanimous opinion. In its ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to allow Texas to put its congressional, state senate and state house redistricting plans into effect because they have not been precleared under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. (co-counsel Kaye Scholer)

Garden State Equality v. Dow, (N.J.) AALDEF and other civil rights groups joined in an amicus brief challenging the discriminatory treatment of same-sex marriages in New Jersey. In 2013, the New Jersey Superior Court’s decision found that the limited civil unions of same-sex couples were discriminatory and enjoined New Jersey to allow gay and lesbian marriages.

Mitchell v. Felker, (E.D.Ca.) AALDEF joined other civil rights and prisoner rights groups in an amicus brief in the Eastern District of California. California prisons placed all members of racial or ethnic groups in lockdowns that can last months or years. The placement is not based on an individual’s activities or gang allegiances, but solely on race or ethnicity. The amicus brief supports plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction barring such practices.