ACSBlog

  • April 26, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Gail M. Deady, Esq., The Secular Society Women’s Rights Legal Fellow at the ACLU of Virginia

    Gavin Grimm is a junior in high school in Gloucester, Virginia. Gavin is a boy but, because he is also transgender, his school district prohibits him from using the boys’ restrooms. He is instead forced to use the girls’ restroom or single-user, gender-neutral restrooms. With the help of the ACLU of Virginia and the ACLU LGBT & AIDS Project, Gavin challenged this policy in federal court as discriminatory. In a landmark decision last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed with him.

    Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, educational institutions receiving federal education funds are prohibited from discriminating against students on the basis of sex. There are some exceptions to that general prohibition, such as a regulation allowing schools to designate separate restrooms for male and female students.

    In April 2014, however, the Department of Education issued guidance stating that if schools treat male and female students differently, they must treat transgender students consistently with their gender identity.

    Gavin came out to his family as a transgender boy in the summer of 2014 and began his transition, which meant living all aspects of his life as a boy. That fall, Gavin enrolled in school as a male student with his new legal name: Gavin. Unsure of how his peers would react to his transition, Gavin initially asked to use the nurse’s restroom.

    At first, everything went well. School staff supported Gavin’s transition, and most of his peers accepted him as just another male student. When it became clear to Gavin that he could safely use the boys’ restrooms, he asked for and received school administrators’ permission to do so. Gavin used the boys’ restrooms without any problems for about seven weeks.

  • April 26, 2016

    by Jim Thompson

    Illinois State Rep. LaShawn Ford (D) has introduced legislation that would limit solitary confinement in the state to no more than five consecutive days and five total days during a 150 day period, writes the Chicago Tribune.     

    Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Monday that states should make it easier for formerly-incarcerated individuals to obtain state-issued identification after leaving prison, says the Associated Press

    At The American Prospect, Justin Miller reports that Uber has agreed to pay $84 million to settle two class-action lawsuits from its drivers and consider whether the ride-hailing company’s business model is legal. 

  • April 25, 2016

    by Jim Thompson

    Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order Friday restoring voting rights over 200,000 formerly-incarcerated individuals, reports Angela Bronner Helm at The Root.

    At Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Angela Morrison blasts the senseless legal challenge to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration in United States v. Texas.

    The city of Cleveland will pay $6 million to the family of Tamir Rice two years after the teen was shot to death by a police officer, says Mitch Smith in The New York Times.

  • April 22, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Lauren A. Khouri, Associate Attorney at Correia & Puth, PLLC, where she dedicates her practice to the civil rights of employees and students in the workplace and in school

    Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that a Virginia school board’s policy barring a transgender boy from using the boy’s restrooms at his school violates Title IX’s ban on discrimination on the basis of sex. The decision overturned the lower court’s dismissal of the student’s Title IX claim and makes clear that trans students who are barred from using the right restroom are protected by Title IX. The school’s policy of allowing the student to use the boy’s bathroom was in place for seven weeks without incident prior to being overturned by the local school board. The Fourth Circuit’s decision against the school board has major implications for the transgender population, not just under Title IX but also for other statutes protecting against sex discrimination in the workplace and public accommodations.

    Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex-based discrimination and retaliation in education. Title IX applies to education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance, and protects students and school employees at educational institutions at all levels, from kindergarten through postgraduate schools. Increasingly, courts and federal agencies have determined that the protections of Title IX extend beyond traditional understandings of sex discrimination and sex stereotyping to include discrimination based on an individual’s transgender status. This decision by the Fourth Circuit marks the first federal appeals court to hold that transgender people are protected under federal law from discrimination in education.

    In G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, the majority opinion written by Judge Henry Floyd held that the U.S. Department of Education’s interpretation of its own regulations is entitled to deference. The Department of Education interpretation concluded that when schools separate students on the basis of gender, generally schools must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity. The lower court had dismissed G.G.’s claims, finding that the Department of Education’s interpretation was entitled to no deference and Title IX did not protect against gender identity discrimination.

  • April 22, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Monica Grewal, Partner, and Michael H. Smith, Senior Associate, WilmerHale

    The United States Patent and Trademark Office has used a “broadest reasonable interpretation” (BRI) standard for claim interpretation when examining pending patent applications. Under the BRI standard, a claim term is generally given its broadest reasonable interpretation consistent with the ordinary and customary meaning of the term, its use in the specification, and how it would have been understood by those skilled in the art. Federal district courts, by contrast, have utilized the approach provided in Phillips v. AWH Corp. Under the Phillips approach, courts construe claim terms based on the meaning they would have had to a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention, based on review of the patent specification, file history, and extrinsic evidence such as dictionaries.

    The America Invents Act of 2011 (AIA) established procedures for challenging issued patents at the Patent Office through inter partes review (IPR), covered business methods review (CBM), and post-grant review (PGR) proceedings. The Patent Office generally applies the BRI standard to these proceedings rather than the Phillips standard. Whether the Patent Office should apply BRI or a Phillips construction has been a matter of debate given the nature of these proceedings.

    BRI and claim amendments in In re: Cuozzo

    In In re: Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC, now on appeal to the Supreme Court, the Federal Circuit upheld the use of the BRI standard in IPR proceedings in a 2-1 decision. The majority and dissent agreed that the Patent Office’s BRI standard is premised at least in part on the ability to amend claims. The judges disagreed, however, on the implications for IPR proceedings.