Women and Justice: Court: United States Supreme Court

Domestic Case Law

Planned Parenthood of Se. Pennsylvania v. Casey United States Supreme Court (1992)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Gender discrimination

In light of Roe v. Wade, the plaintiffs challenged various abortion-limiting restrictions in Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act. The Supreme Court created a new test that asks whether a state abortion regulation has the purpose or effect of imposing an “undue burden,” which the Court defined as a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.” Pursuant to this test, the Court upheld nearly all of the restrictions in Pennsylvania’s state abortion law, including parental notification/consent requirements for minors and limitations on public funding of abortions. However, the Court did find that the statute’s husband notification requirement was unlawful. 

Bradwell v. The State United States Supreme Court (1872)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Myra Bradwell petitioned to be admitted to the bar and to be allowed to practice law, but was denied by the Supreme Court of Illinois. The United States Supreme Court upheld this decision, noting that a woman’s freedom to pursue the occupation of a lawyer was not a “privilege and immunity” of Untied States citizenship that was protected from state restriction by the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution. Thus the court found that excluding women from the bar did not violate the U.S. Constitution.

In re Lockwood United States Supreme Court (1894)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The Supreme Court stated that a woman could not be admitted to the bar because she was under a common law disability: she did not have the right to enter into contracts with third persons without the permission of her husband.

Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education United States Supreme Court (2005)

Gender discrimination

Mr. Jackson, a teacher and basketball coach, brought suit against the Birmingham Board of Education (“Board”), alleging that the Board retaliated against him because he had complained about sex discrimination in the high school’s athletic program. Specifically, Mr. Jackson complained to his supervisors that the girls’ basketball team was not receiving equal funding and equal access to athletic equipment and facilities. After the Board terminated Mr. Jackson’s coaching duties, he filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. He alleged that the Board violated Title IX by retaliating against him for protesting the discrimination of the girls’ basketball team. The district court dismissed Mr. Jackson’s complaint on the ground Title IX did not cover claims retaliation, and the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The Unites States Supreme Court reversed, holding: “We conclude that when a funding recipient retaliates against a person because he complains of sex discrimination, this constitutes intentional ‘discrimination’ ‘on the basis of sex,’ in violation of Title IX.” The Court reached this conclusion, in part, because “[r]eporting incidents of discrimination is integral to Title IX enforcement and would be discouraged if retaliation against those who report went unpunished.” In response to the Board’s claim that it had no notice that Title IX prohibited retaliation, the Supreme Court held that Title IX itself supplied sufficient notice to the Board, as did previous Courts of Appeals decisions that had considered the issue.