Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: Diversity Data Needed for State Judges

Imani Gandy & Jessica Mason Pieklo

Lambda Legal has been busy; Arkansas' new batch of abortion laws has a court date; and companies and three states' top lawyers weigh in on a key workplace discrimination case.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.

Lambda Legal and the American Constitution Society for Law and Politics teamed up for a report that details the necessity for diversity on the bench in state courts. But there’s a hurdle: There’s not enough data on the demographics of state judges, though they rule on a huge share of the nation’s cases.

Lambda Legal also filed a lawsuit in federal court against the St. Johns County School Board in St. Augustine, Florida, on behalf of 16-year-old Drew Adams. The board denied him access to the boys’ restroom because he is transgender.

On July 13, the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights will appear in federal court to argue that four abortion restrictions passed during this legislative session in Arkansas, including a dilation and evacuation ban that would prohibit the most common method of second-trimester abortion, are unconstitutional and should be blocked from enforcement. Three of these laws are scheduled to take effect on July 30.

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Fifty companies and organizations, including Microsoft, Google, CBS, Lyft, and Ben and Jerry’s, signed on to an amicus brief urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to declare sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace illegal under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The entire Second Circuit is set to rehear Zarda v. Altitude Express, the case of a skydiving instructor who alleges he was fired because he is gay.

And those companies aren’t alone. Eric Schneiderman, George Jepsen, and T.J. Donovan, the attorneys general for New York, Connecticut, and Vermont, respectively have also filed an amicus brief in the case.

Edward Blum, the brains behind Abigail Fisher’s unsuccessful affirmative action lawsuit against the University of Texas (UT) is at it again. After losing two cases at the U.S. Supreme Court in one term, he’s set his sights on state court. Blum’s nonprofit, Students for Fair Admissions, has filed a lawsuit in state court alleging that UT’s admissions practices violate the Texas state constitution.

University of California, Irvine, Professor Rick Hasen writes in the Washington Post that the U.S. Supreme Court has no intention of protecting voters from gerrymandering. In the key voting rights cases North Carolina v. Covington and Cooper v. Harris, the justices agreed that the Republican-redrawn legislative districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. But in rejecting special elections as a remedy, they demonstrated they’re not putting voters’ interests first.

A federal district court judge in Indiana issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of parts of SB 404, which would make it more difficult for minors to get an abortion without their parents’ knowledge and consent. The law was set to go into effect on July 1.

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