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Introduction
Civil Liberties
Discrimination
Federalism
Free Exercise of Religion
Hate Crimes
Separation of Church and State
Terrorism
Justices’ positions in ADL Cases (1993-2007)
NEWSLETTER: ADL in the Courts
  
Civil Liberties

Applewhite v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 2012)
In March 2012, Pennsylvania passed a law requiring voters to show photo identification in order to vote. ADL submitted a brief opposing the statute and supporting a motion for preliminary injunction. The brief detailed Pennsylvania’s history of disenfranchising people of color and women and argued that the new law disproportionately disadvantages Latino voters, who are more likely to lack the required ID, less likely to be able to obtain the proper ID, and more likely to be disenfranchised by poll workers on Election Day than many groups.

U.S. v. Arizona (U.S. Supreme Court, 2012)
In April 2010, Arizona enacted what is considered the most restrictive anti-immigration bill in the country.  The law’s provisions include a requirement that local law enforcement officers who have “reasonable suspicion” that someone they have stopped is unlawfully in the country must check for evidence of legal status.  ADL submitted an amicus brief in support of a motion for preliminary injunction against the law, at the district court level in a case called Friendly House v. Whiting.  In a separate case brought by the U.S. Government challenging the same law on preemption grounds, U.S. v. Arizona, the District Court granted a preliminary injunction on key provisions of the law.  ADL filed again with the Ninth Circuit, in support of the preliminary injunction, and again the League filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court when the case was granted cert.  All of ADL’s amicus briefs highlighted the security issues at stake with the new law, underscoring ADL’s concern that the new policy will deter victims and witnesses from coming forward to report crimes, particularly hate crimes, and that will impact negatively on the ability of local law enforcement agencies to keep communities safe.

Lowcountry Immigration Coalition, et al. v. Haley, et al. (U.S.D.C. South Carolina, 2011) PDF 1.89mb
In June 2011, South Carolina passed an anti-immigrant law, the most contentious part of which required local law enforcement to check the immigration status of any person they believed to be in the country illegally. The law also made it a crime to harbor or transport an undocumented person. ADL submitted a brief opposing the statute and supporting a motion for preliminary injunction. The brief focused on the possible corrosive effects the new law could have on the relationship between local law enforcement and the community. In December 2011, the Court agreed and blocked the most controversial provisions from taking effect.

Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum; Mohamad v. Rajoub (U.S. Supreme Court, 2011) PDF 137 kb
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 second case, Mohamad, involves a U.S. citizen of Palestinian descent, who was allegedly tortured to death in a Palestinian prison in 1995. The deceased’s family sued the Palestinian Authority and the PLO (as well as several Palestinian officials) under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), which allows victims of torture to bring U.S. civil lawsuits for damages against the “individual” who – while acting on behalf of a foreign government – was responsible for the torture. The Supreme Court will decide whether the TVPA and ATS permit actions against defendant organizations and corporations, or whether they were intended to apply only against natural persons, thereby shielding organizations and corporations from tort liability for human rights violations that occurred abroad. The ADL joined a coalition brief in support of the position that Congress did not intend to limit the TVPA and ATS only to actions against natural persons.

Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, et al. v. Bentley (U.S.C.A. 11th Circuit, 2011) PDF 102 kb
In 2011, Alabama enacted the most restrictive anti-immigrant law in the country to date. The law, among other things, grants local law enforcement officers the authority to investigate the immigration status of any person lawfully stopped based on “reasonable suspicion” that they may be in the country unlawfully. ADL submitted a brief to the District Court supporting a motion for preliminary injunction against the law. The brief highlighted the security issues at stake with the law, underscoring ADL’s concern that the new policy would deter victims and witnesses from coming forward to report crimes and that would impact negatively on the ability of local law enforcement agencies to keep communities safe. In September 2011, the District Court declined to enter a preliminary injunction. A few weeks later in October, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals left most of the law intact, but issued a preliminary injunction against two sections: (1) a section of the law requiring schools to determine the immigration status of children enrolling in school for the first time, as well as their parents; (2) a section making it a state crime for illegal immigrations to fail to carry registration documents. In November 2011, ADL filed a brief with the 11th Circuit, supporting a motion for preliminary injunction against the entire law.

Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights vs. Deal (Northern District of GA, 2011) PDF 241 kb
ADL filed a brief supporting a motion for a preliminary injunction in a case brought to enjoin enforcement of Georgia’s restrictive anti-immigration bill, HB 87. ADL’s brief contends that HB 87 poses a substantial threat of deterring Latinos from reporting crimes or serving as witnesses in criminal investigations, and that it will impede police investigations of crimes against legal and undocumented residents alike. The brief warns that the law could lead to the creation of an underclass uniquely vulnerable to increased hate crimes and violence. The brief also argues that HB 87 will also make it more difficult for law enforcement agencies to work in a cooperative atmosphere with the Hispanic communities of Georgia.
Snyder v. Phelps (U.S. Supreme Court, 2010) PDF 749 kb
This case concerns the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), a hate group that has protested at soldiers’ funerals to promote their belief that tragedy is befalling the U.S. because of the U.S.’s tolerance of homosexuality. The case arose when the father of a fallen soldier sued for damages against the WBC after the group protested near his son’s funeral. In the trial court, the Plaintiff won a $5 million verdict based on three claims: intrusion into a secluded event, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy. The Fourth Circuit that the protesters’ speech was protected by the First Amendment because it was only a form of hyperbole, not an assertion of actual facts about the soldier or his family, and involved matters of public concern. ADL filed a brief in support of neither party which argued that because the family did not learn of the protest until later in the day, well after the funeral, the conflict of rights between speech and privacy did not materialize.

McDonald v. City of Chicago (U.S. Supreme Court, 2010) PDF 158 kb
This case focuses on whether the Second Amendment to the US Constitution is incorporated against that states, that is, whether it prohibits most regulation of firearms by states. ADL's brief shared with the Court ADL’s unique expertise about the threat posed by armed extremism in America. The brief suggested that the Court not make sweeping determinations about how lower courts should handle gun cases, allowing the states to continue to experiment with the best way to keep guns out of the hands of such extremists, terrorists, and violent bigots. The brief also argued that if the Court were inclined to apply the Second Amendment against the states, that it not hastily adopt an overly onerous standard of review.

Samantar v. Yousuf (U.S. Supreme Court, 2009) PDF 660 kb
A group of Somalis are seeking legal redress in a US court for the alleged torture they suffered at the hands of soldiers under the command of a former Somali government official.  The government official, a former prime minister, is claiming immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.  ADL argued that U.S. courts cannot provide immunity to officials of foreign countries who are accused of violations of Jus Cogens norms (the most fundamental norms of international law “accepted and recognized by the international community of States as a whole as a norm from which no derogation is permitted”), including acts of torture, genocide and other crimes against humanity.  At the same time, ADL asked the Court to not tamper with a developing set of doctrines and principles in the Courts of Appeals that have served to prevent such suits from becoming political weapons

This case challenges the constitutionality of Congress’ 2006 decision to extend Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act for an additional 25 years. The decision to extend the law was based on Congressional findings that vestiges of discrimination still exist and thus the law should remain in effect.   ADL joined with the nearly 200 organizations that comprise the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and urged the Court to uphold the VRA extension, arguing that Congress’ determination was reasonable 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. PDF 245 kb


Lozano v City of Hazleton (3rd Cir 2008).
This case involves an anti-immigration ordinance enacted in Hazleton, PA which prohibited the hiring of, and leasing of property to, illegal immigrants. The lower court ruled the ordinance was unconstitutional because immigration policy is more properly governed by federal law. ADL filed an amicus brief in the 3rd Circuit, in coalition of with other major civil rights organizations, which depicted the history of anti-immigrant sentiment in U.S. history and argued that the Hazleton ordinance was discriminatory in intent and effect. PDF 2,000 kb

District of Columbia et .al. v. Heller (2008). In a 5-4 decision, the Court held, for the first time, that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to have a gun for private use.  The Court struck down as unconstitutional an absolute ban on handguns held in the home, but recognized that some reasonable limitations may be legal.  ADL joined a coalition in filing an amicus brief in this case which argued that the Second Amendment should not be interpreted as limiting a state’s authority to regulate firearms when it seeks to protect the life, liberty and property of its citizens. Rather, the brief argued, the language of the Amendment can only be reasonably read to prohibit the federal government from interfering with such state regulation. PDF 748 kb

Boumediene v. Bush and al Odah v. U.S (2007)
In a 5-4 decision, the Court upheld the rights of foreign detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to seek review of the legality of their detentions in federal court.  ADL joined a coalition of human rights, public interest and religious groups in an amicus brief supporting the rights of the detainees. The brief argued that the Military Commissions Act passed by Congress creates unconstitutional "law free" zones in which executive detentions remain unchecked by the Judiciary and strips detainees of any meaningful opportunity to test the legality of their detention. This, the brief contends, is contrary to the American principles of checks and balances and due process. PDF 284 kb


Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No.1
Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education
(2006)
More than 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, these cases are about our nation’s continuing, unfulfilled and still critically important duty to eliminate segregation in our public schools. ADL’s amicus brief supports Seattle and Louisville programs which use race as one factor in assigning students to public schools of comparable quality, asserting that these programs are justified not only by a compelling interest in desegregation, but also by a compelling interest in promoting racial diversity in the educational setting. The programs do not involve an unfair preference for students who might be less qualified, nor do they discriminate in the provision of benefits. To the contrary, the plans represent a legitimate, thoughtful and constitutionally sound way to promote equality, diversity, and cross-racial understanding.PDF 417 kb

Gonzales v Planned Parenthood and Gonzales v Carhart (2006)
This case addresses the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. ADL, together with other religious and religiously affiliated organizations, joined a brief authored by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The brief argues that the Act unconstitutionally threatens the health and lives of women, and undermines their right to choose an abortion in accordance with their religious faiths. The brief also asserts that for many people of faith, freedom to make decisions of conscience without government interference is consistent with their deeply held religious convictions. Further, restrictions on access to abortion that do not provide an exception for the health of the woman not only risk women's health but threaten the religious values of many women of faith. PDF 1,423 kb

Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, et al. (2005) This Supreme Court case involves the constitutionality of The New Hampshire Parental Notification Prior to Abortion Act. The Act prohibits abortions for minors unless the parents have been notified, but provides exceptions for abortions necessary to prevent death and for minors who have obtained a judicial declaration that they are mature enough to make a decision concerning abortion. The First Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled that the Act was unconstitutional because it does not include a health exception and the death exception is too narrow. ADL, together with 41 other religious and religiously affiliated organizations, joined a brief authored by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The brief argued, among other things, that in emergency situations, the Act unconstitutionally threatens the health and lives of young women, and undermines their right to choose an abortion in accordance with religious faiths that place great value on women’s health and lives. The variety of religious beliefs about abortion underscores the importance of maintaining a private sphere– free from undue government interference – in which women, including minors, can make choices to protect their own lives and health in accordance with their faiths. Although parental guidance in young women’s major life decisions, including whether to end a pregnancy, is important, state-mandated parental involvement can sometimes harm the minor, such as where the family is dysfunctional or where an emergency situation requires immediate action. PDF 634 kb

Rasul v. Bush (2004) The Anti-Defamation League has joined an amicus brief submitted to the United States Supreme Court in a case that will determine the status of the Guantanamo Bay detainees. The brief was authored by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights for a coalition of civil rights organizations including the American Jewish Committee, and the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism among others. The brief focuses on the civil liberties “black hole” that would be created if detainees could be held in Guantanamo without access to any court. It suggests that Israeli law provides an example of how to both guarantee security and to respect fundamental civil liberties, as required under international law. The key point of the brief is that U.S. law and international law each require that there be some review of the legality of indefinite detention. PDF 224 kb

Stenberg v. Carhart (530 U.S. 914 (2000)) In a 5-4 decision, the Court struck down a Nebraska law that criminalized the midterm dilation and extraction procedure referred to as "partial birth abortion" unless such procedure is necessary to save the mother's life. The Court struck down the statute because it placed an undue burden on a woman's right to have an abortion and did not allow for exception in cases of threatened health. ADL argued, along with 53 other organizations, that the Nebraska law unconstitutionally interfered with matters of individual choice and religious significance and impermissibly advocated certain beliefs over others. PDF 170 kb

Planned Parenthood v. Casey (505 U.S. 833 (1992)): In a splintered decision, the Court refused to overturn Roe v. Wade, but upheld many provisions of Pennsylvania law restricting rights recognized in Roe, including a parental consent requirement for minors, counseling by doctor about alternatives, a 24-hour waiting period, and reporting on patients and procedures by health clinics. ADL, together with a coalition of organizations, argued that Roe should be reaffirmed. PDF 516 kb

Hohri v. U.S. (482 U.S. 64 (1987)): This 1986 case was brought by internees against the government seeking compensation for property taken from Japanese Americans without due process of law. ADL joined a coalition of civil rights organizations in filing an amicus brief arguing that the government’s harsh treatment of Japanese Americans resulted in a stigma against them of racial inferiority and of disloyalty. The Court found jurisdictional issues with the case and did not decide the case on its merits.
NAACP v. State of Alabama (357 U.S. 449 (1958)): This case, which arose after Alabama prohibited the NAACP from meeting or conducting activities within its borders unless membership records were produced, marks a significant milestone in the struggle for racial equality in the United States. As a staunch advocate for equality among all people, ADL successfully maintained that the NAACP should not be deprived of its constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of association. PDF 2,584 kb

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (347 U.S. 483 (1954)): This is the landmark civil rights case that resulted in the desegregation of public schools across the entire United States. As amicus curiae, ADL successfully argued that the "separate but equal" doctrine, which had historically been used to justify the establishment of separate school systems for black and white children, was unconstitutional and violated the Fourteenth Amendment. PDF 2,492 kb

Shelley v. Kraemer (334 U.S. 1 (1948)): This case, a landmark in civil rights litigation, established the right of all citizens to own property regardless of race and thereby invalidated the racially restrictive covenants that had historically prevented non-white people from living in certain areas. In its first amicus curiae brief ever, ADL successfully argued that restrictive covenants and the segregated communities they promoted were unconstitutional and violated the Fourteenth Amendment. PDF 2,333 kb
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