Amicus Briefs on Women's Issues

The advancement of a women’s rights agenda depends heavily on court decisions for its success. Since its inception, CWL has devoted significant energy to an active Amicus Program in which CWL prepares or joins others in presenting amicus briefs in cases relevant to CWL’s core issues.

This past year, CWL appeared as amicus curiae in three important cases. Most recently, CWL was solicited to submit an amicus curiae letter in support of a petition for review by the California Supreme Court filed by the Attorney General. The petition presented a criminal-law issue especially relevant to the domestic-violence context—pinning down the parameters of the “provocation” defense, which reduces a murderer’s culpability to voluntary manslaughter. This issue arises in virtually all domestic-violence murders because the murderer almost always argues that his wife or girlfriend “provoked” her own murder. The Supreme Court granted review and CWL is currently working with allied organizations to draft an amici curiae brief on the merits.

Earlier in the year, CWL joined an amici curiae brief in one of the lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act. The brief, filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, explained the gender discrimination inherent in the unregulated insurance market and positioned the healthcare law as civil rights legislation extending, protecting, and ensuring that quality medical services are available to all women. CWL’s third major amicus curiae project this year was joining a brief in support of the plaintiff class in the Wal-Mart v. Dukes sex discrimination case. That brief presented the United States Supreme Court with voluminous social science and public policy data showing that discrimination hurts the employer’s bottom line. CWL’s amicus curiae projects have helped burnish our reputation as a source for thoughtful input on complex issues implicating women’s rights and equal justice under the law.