Ban on transgender personnel in the military will receive intermediate scrutiny; injunction against the ban is stayed.

Here’s a complicated case, raising important issues about the rights of transgender individuals, the extent of executive branch privileges, and the amount of deference courts should grant to military decisions.

In 2017 the President issued a Memorandum barring transgender individuals from serving in the military, but a federal district court issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the 2017 Memorandum. In 2018 the President revoked his 2017 Memorandum and authorized the Secretary of Defense to implement the policies he proposed based on a 44-page report. Defendants then requested that the district court dissolve its preliminary injunction, but the district court struck that motion. While defendants were appealing that order, the district court denied defendants' motion for a protective order of discovery and granted plaintiffs' motion to compel production of documents that defendants withheld under a claim of two executive branch privileges. Defendants then petitioned the 9th Circuit for a writ of mandamus challenging the discovery order.

In Karnoski v. Trump (9th Cir 06/14/2019) [PDF] the 9th Circuit:

(1) vacated the district court’s order striking the Defendants’ motion to dissolve the preliminary injunction and remanded to the district court to reconsider the motion. This was on the ground that the 2018 Policy was significantly different from the 2017 Memorandum. In evaluating whether the significant change warrants dissolution of the preliminary injunction, the 9th Circuit rejected the district court's strict scrutiny approach. "[T]he district court should apply a standard of review that is more than rational basis but less than strict scrutiny." In addition, the district court "must apply appropriate military deference to its evaluation of the 2018 Policy." "In applying intermediate scrutiny on remand, the district court may not substitute its 'own evaluation of evidence for a reasonable evaluation' by the military."

(2) issued a stay of the preliminary injunction (which had previously been ordered by the US Supreme Court).

(3) vacated the district court’s discovery order and directed the district court to reconsider discovery by giving careful consideration to executive branch privileges. These include the deliberative process privilege and the presidential communications privilege.

Another attack on public sector unions

There's a petition for certiorari pending at the US Supreme Court asking the Court to take up the issue of "Whether it violates the First Amendment to appoint a labor union to represent and speak for public-sector employees who have declined to join the union." Uradnik v. Inter Faculty Organization [Briefs]

Kathleen Uradnik sought a preliminary injunction challenging the constitutionality of an exclusive collective bargaining representative in the public sector, asserting that “the University and State of Minnesota [should] not appoint the Union to speak for her and not force her into an expressive association with it.”

The trial court denied the preliminary injunction, and the 8th Circuit affirmed in December 2018, having decided that Uradnik "cannot show a likelihood of success on the merits of her compelled speech argument."

The Supreme Court may or may not want to hear this case, so we'll just hide and watch.

No ministerial exception for Catholic grade school teacher

No ministerial exception for Catholic grade school teacher.

Part of a series - Employment Law Case of the Week - by Ross Runkel.

Is a fifth grade teacher at a Catholic school a “minister” for purposes of the ministerial exception? Court says “No” 2-1.

Kristen Biel was fired from her fifth grade teaching position at a Catholic school after she told her employer that she had breast cancer and would need to miss work to undergo chemotherapy. The trial court granted summary judgment to the employer on the ground that the 1st amendment's ministerial exception barred her claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The 9th Circuit reversed, 2-1. Biel v. St. James School (9th Cir 12/17/2018) [PDF]

The court applied the analysis in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC to conclude that, under the totality of the circumstances, Biel did not qualify as a "minister" for purposes of the ministerial exception.

  1. The school did not hold Biel out as a minister by suggesting to its community that she had special expertise in Church doctrine, values, or pedagogy beyond that of any practicing Catholic.

  2. Biel's title "Grade 5 Teacher" did not reflect any religious meaning. There was no religious component to her liberal studies degree or teaching credential, and the school had no religious requirements for her position.

  3. Nothing in the record indicates that Biel considered herself a minister or presented herself as one to the community. She described herself as a teacher and claimed no benefits available only to ministers.

  4. Biel taught lessons on the Catholic faith four days a week. She also incorporated religious themes and symbols into her overall classroom environment and curriculum, as the school required.

The DISSENT argued that Biel was "entrusted with teaching and conveying the tenets of the faith to the next generation." The substance reflected in her title and the important religious functions she performed outweigh her formal title and whether she held herself out as a minister.