ERA supports Fresno State women student athletes in 9th Circuit Court gender discrimination case
July 21. 2023
For Immediate Release
Jul 21, 2023
On Friday, July 21, the country’s second most powerful court — the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — accepted an amici brief that Equal Rights Advocates (ERA) submitted in an important Title IX case, which will determine whether student athletes can fight for gender equality on behalf of all women athletes at their school regardless of what sport they play.
17 partner organizations joined ERA as amici curiae, signing on in support of the brief. The plaintiffs are represented by Bailey & Glasser, LLP, with co-counsel Caddell & Chapman.
The case, led by women student athletes at the California State University, Fresno, will hear a challenge to a 2022 lower court ruling (Eastern District Court of California) that said student athletes from one team cannot file class action lawsuits on behalf of women athletes from other sports teams. However, many women’s teams at schools all over the country would not be able to meet the requirements of qualifying for a class action lawsuit on their own due to issues like the size of the team, making this ruling a death-knell for efficient class action enforcement of Title IX rights in athletics.
ERA’s brief argues that the lower court’s decision goes against the very spirit of Title IX as Congress defined it 50 years ago, as well as decades of established Title IX legal precedent.
Most successful Title IX athletics cases are brought to court as class action lawsuits because Title IX compliance often requires evaluation of a school’s entire athletics program to determine whether the school is following the law on gender equity. Since pursuing legal action is already a daunting and difficult experience for students, removing the option for broader representation by a smaller group decreases the likelihood of the positive changes that Title IX lawsuits can facilitate.
“Enabling students to fight for each other regardless of what sport they play is essential to fulfill the purpose and promise of Title IX,” said Maha Ibrahim, Senior Attorney, who is lead ERA counsel on the brief. “If the district court’s decision remains intact, it would give the green light to schools to discriminate against women athletes, picking and choosing what they perceive as the smallest or weakest sports to target in order to avoid compliance with Title IX. We’re urging the court to see the harm of denying class certification and protect student’s federal right to equal access in sports and school programs.”
“The district court’s unprecedented order barring Title IX class actions on behalf of all women athletes at a school would procedurally gut Title IX enforcement and allow sex discrimination in athletics to advance,” said Arthur H. Bryant of Bailey & Glasser, LLP, lead counsel for the women athletes at Fresno State. “We are extremely grateful that ERA and these 17 groups dedicated to gender equity are supporting this critical appeal.”
ERA supported the Fresno student athletes in their successful petition to the 9th Circuit last year requesting that court’s review of this matter with an amicus brief submitted in partnership with Claire Diallo of The Larew Law Firm.
The following have officially signed on amici curiae:
Equal Rights Advocates
American Association of University Women
American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California
American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island
California Women’s Law Center
End Rape On Campus
Family Violence Appellate Project
Family Violence Law Center
Legal Aid at Work
Legal Momentum, The Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund
National Organization for Women
Southwest Women’s Law Center
The Drake Group, Inc.
Women’s Law Project
Women’s Sports Foundation
Equal Rights Advocates fights for gender justice in workplaces and schools across the country. Since 1974, they have been fighting on the front lines of social justice to protect and advance rights and opportunities for women, girls, and people of all gender identities through groundbreaking legal cases and bold legislation that sets the stage for the rest of the nation.