The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) has been a standing body of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993. Comprising five members of the House leadership (the Speaker, the majority and minority leaders, the majority and minority whips), it directs the activities of the House Office of General Counsel. BLAG can direct the General Counsel to participate in litigation or file an amicus curiae brief in cases involving the interests of the House or BLAG can call for legislation or a House resolution authorizing the General Counsel to represent the House itself.
The House Office of General Counsel evolved from a low-level position that handled routine contracts. In the mid-1970s Speaker Tip O'Neil authorized it to handle constitutional questions, though it remained under the supervision of the House Clerk.The House authorized the Speaker to intervene in Chadha v. INS , and after that lawsuit's resolution in 1983 the five members of the House leadership, without authorization from the House, established the House Bipartisan Leadership Group to represent the interests of the House in litigation, which it did several times as either intervenor or amicus over the next decade.
On January 5, 1993, the Democratic-majority House adopted a rule creating the Office of General Counsel under the control of the Speaker "who shall consult with a Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group which shall include the majority and minority leaderships."Republicans had offered without success an amendment that would have required approval by the entire House for the Office of Counsel to undertake certain kinds of litigation and enhanced BLAG's control of the office.
BLAG has acted in a wide range of cases. In 1997, BLAG filed an amicus brief in Raines v. Byrd, an unsuccessful challenge to the Line Item Veto Act of 1996.During consideration of Dickerson v. United States (2000), BLAG submitted an amicus brief to the Fourth Circuit and to the Supreme Court arguing that judicial review of a statute should not extend to the political considerations underlying its enactment. In 2002, when a group of Democratic congressmen sued the Bush administration over access to census information, BLAG's Republican majority had the Office of House Council oppose them and argue that courts should not interfere in such disputes between the executive and legislative branches. In 2004, BLAG filed an amicus brief in Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow in support of a school district's practice of leading students in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, including the words "under God." During the criminal proceedings against Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana, following a unanimous vote of its five members, BLAG filed a brief calling for the return of papers seized from Jefferson's offices by the FBI in May 2006.
In 2011, when President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) would no longer defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), House Speaker John Boehner convened BLAG to authorize the House Office of General Counsel or other outside attorneys to take the place of the DOJ in defending the law.On March 9, 2011, BLAG by a vote of 3–2 directed the Office of General Counsel to defend DOMA. Attorneys representing BLAG filed a brief in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management , opposing an action brought by a federal employee to invalidate Section 3 of DOMA under which health insurance coverage to her same-sex spouse was denied. In Golinski and a series of lawsuits challenging DOMA, BLAG's role has not been limited to filing amicus briefs. Without opposition from opposing counsel, several District Courts have granted BLAG intervenor-defendant status. In one DOMA case, McLaughlin v. Panetta , plaintiffs' attorneys asked the court, without success, to limit BLAG to filing an amicus curiae brief rather than participating as intervenor-defendant as it did in other DOMA cases. They argued that the House did not properly authorize BLAG to intervene and that BLAG's direct participation violated the separation of powers doctrine. The DOJ also questioned BLAG's standing to appeal a District Court decision, relying on Buckley v. Valeo (1976). Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi questioned the funding of BLAG's defense of DOMA, which in January 2013 BLAG capped at $3 million.
On December 7, 2012, the Supreme Court, in agreeing to hear another DOMA case, United States v. Windsor , asked the parties to address "whether the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives has Article III standing in this case".Article III of the U.S. Constitution restricts the judiciary to hearing cases and controversies, which the Supreme Court has long interpreted to require parties to a case to have a direct interest in the outcome, rather than the "generalized interest" that the Department of Justice claims BLAG has in the defense of DOMA. BLAG has countered, citing the Supreme Court's decision in Chadha that "Congress is ... a proper party" to defend the validity of a statute" in such circumstances.
On January 3, 2013, at the start of the 113th Congress, the House of Representatives included in its rules a provision authorizing BLAG to defend DOMA and related laws, mentioning the Windsor case by name. It also made BLAG's role explicit: "the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group continues to speak for, and articulate the institutional position of, the House in all litigation matters in which it appears".The Supreme Court ruled against BLAG in Windsor on June 26, and on July 18, BLAG acknowledged that in Windsor "[t]he Supreme Court recently resolved the issue of DOMA Section 3's constitutionality" and said "it no longer will defend that statute".
Justice Anthony Kennedy's decision for the majority in Windsor noted that BLAG's participation in the case helped reassure the court that it was presented proper adversarial argument despite the fact that principal parties to the case, the administration and Windsor, were not at odds. The court also found that it "need not decide whether BLAG would have standing to challenge the District Court’s ruling and its affirmance in the Court of Appeals on BLAG's own authority."Justice Alito in dissent nevertheless argued that BLAG should have been allowed to defend the statute. He wrote that it was properly authorized to act on behalf of the House and had standing as an aggrieved party once part of DOMA was ruled unconstitutional because "the House of Representatives was a necessary party to DOMA's passage". He concluded: "in the narrow category of cases in which a court strikes down an Act of Congress and the Executive declines to defend the Act, Congress both has standing to defend the undefended statute and is a proper party to do so." Justice Scalia in his dissent, without addressing the immediate instance of BLAG's standing, wrote that Alito's theory would improperly elevate the role of the courts and substitute lawsuits initiated by Congress or the executive branch for the political process.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a United States federal law passed by the 104th United States Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It defined marriage for federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman, and allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted under the laws of other states. The act's provisions were ruled unconstitutional or left effectively unenforceable by Supreme Court decisions in the cases of United States v. Windsor (2013) and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015).
An amicus curiae is someone who is not a party to a case who assists a court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case. The decision on whether to consider an amicus brief lies within the discretion of the court. The phrase amicus curiae is legal Latin.
In law, intervention is a procedure to allow a nonparty, called intervenor to join ongoing litigation, either as a matter of right or at the discretion of the court, without the permission of the original litigants. The basic rationale for intervention is that a judgment in a particular case may affect the rights of nonparties, who ideally should have the right to be heard.
The Constitution Project is a non-profit think tank in the United States whose goal is to build bipartisan consensus on significant constitutional and legal questions. Its founder and president is Virginia Sloan. The Constitution Project’s work is divided between two programs: the Rule of Law Program and the Criminal Justice Program. Each program houses bipartisan committees focused on specific constitutional issues.
Lexecon Inc. v. Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, 523 U.S. 26 (1998), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court unanimously held that a district court conducting coordinated pretrial proceedings in multiple cases by designation of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation under 28 U.S.C. § 1407(a) has no authority to reassign a transferred case to itself for the actual trial of the case. The Court's decision overturned numerous lower-court decisions upholding what had become a common practice in multi-district cases.
The Center on the Administration of Criminal Law is a think-tank dedicated to the promotion of good government and prosecution practices in criminal matters. Its work has been the subject of a feature story in the Associated Press.
Same-sex marriage has been legally recognized in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania since May 20, 2014, when a U.S. federal district court judge ruled that the Commonwealth's 1996 statutory ban on recognizing same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The state had prohibited recognition of same-sex marriage by statute since 1996. It had never added such a ban to its State Constitution.
Hollingsworth v. Perry were a series of United States federal court cases that legalized same-sex marriage in the State of California. The case began in 2009 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which found that banning same-sex marriage violates equal protection under the law. This decision overturned ballot initiative Proposition 8, which had banned same-sex marriage. After the State of California refused to defend Proposition 8, the official sponsors of Proposition 8 intervened and appealed to the Supreme Court. The case was litigated during the governorships of both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, and was thus known as Perry v. Schwarzenegger and Perry v. Brown, respectively. As Hollingsworth v. Perry, it eventually reached the United States Supreme Court, which held that, in line with prior precedent, the official sponsors of a ballot initiative measure did not have Article III standing to appeal an adverse federal court ruling when the state refused to do so.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. United States Department of Health and Human Services 682 F.3d 1 is a United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit decision that affirmed the judgment of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the section that defines the terms "marriage" as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife" and "spouse" as "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife." Both courts found DOMA to be unconstitutional, though for different reasons. The trial court held that DOMA violates the Tenth Amendment and Spending Clause. In a companion case, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, the same judge held that DOMA violates the Equal Protection Clause. On May 31, 2012, the First Circuit held the act violates the Equal Protection Clause, while federalism concerns affect the equal protection analysis, DOMA does not violate the Spending Clause or Tenth Amendment.
The United States military formerly excluded gay men, bisexuals, and lesbians from service. In 1993, the United States Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed a law instituting the policy commonly referred to as "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) which allowed gay, lesbian, and bisexual people to serve as long as they did not reveal their sexual orientation. Although there were isolated instances in which service personnel met with limited success through lawsuits, efforts to end the ban on openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual people serving either legislatively or through the courts initially proved unsuccessful.
Mary L. Bonauto is an American lawyer and civil rights advocate who has worked to eradicate discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and has been referred to by US Representative Barney Frank as "our Thurgood Marshall." She began working with the Massachusetts-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, now named GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) organization in 1990. A resident of Portland, Maine, Bonauto was one of the leaders who both worked with the Maine legislature to pass a same-sex marriage law and to defend it at the ballot in a narrow loss during the 2009 election campaign. These efforts were successful when, in the 2012 election, Maine voters approved the measure, making it the first state to allow same-sex marriage licenses via ballot vote. Bonauto is best known for being lead counsel in the case Goodridge v. Department of Public Health which made Massachusetts the first state in which same-sex couples could marry in 2004. She is also responsible for leading the first strategic challenges to section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management, 682 F.3d 1 is a United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit decision that affirmed the judgment of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the section that defines the term "marriage" as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife" and "spouse" as "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."
OutServe-SLDN was a network of LGBT military personnel, formed as a result of the merger between OutServe and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. OutServe-SLDN was one of the largest LGBT employee resource groups in the world. OutServe was founded by a 2009 graduate of the US Air Force Academy, Josh Seefried and Ty Walrod. There were over 7,000 members and 80 chapters worldwide.
Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management is a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, Section 3, which defined the federal definition of marriage to be a union of a man and a woman, entirely excluding legally married same-sex couples. The District Court that originally heard the case ruled Section 3 unconstitutional. On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional, and denied appeal of Pedersen the next day.
United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 744 (2013), is a landmark United States Supreme Court civil rights case concerning same-sex marriage. The Court held that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages, was a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, 824 F. Supp. 2d 968, was a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiff, Karen Golinski, challenged the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined, for the purposes of federal law, marriage as being between one man and one woman, and spouse as a husband or wife of the opposite sex.
This page contains a timeline of significant events regarding same-sex marriage in the United States. On June 26, 2015, the landmark US Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges effectively ended restrictions on same-sex marriage in the United States.
Cardona v. Shinseki was an appeal brought in the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) of a decision by the Board of Veterans' Appeals upholding the denial of service-connected disability benefits for the dependent wife of a female veteran. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs denied the disability benefits based on the definition of "spouse" as "a person of the opposite sex" under federal statute. On March 11, 2014, the CAVC dismissed the case as moot after the Secretary of Veterans Affairs advised the Court that he would neither defend nor enforce the federal statute. Cardona subsequently received full payment of her spousal benefits, retroactive to her date of application.
Same-sex immigration policy in the United States denied couples in same-sex relationships the same rights and privileges afforded different-sex couples based on several court decisions and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional in United States v. Windsor on June 26, 2013.
Sharp v. Murphy is a pending case before the Supreme Court of the United States and raises the question of whether Congress disestablished the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation.
The office "function[s] pursuant to the direction of the Speaker, who shall consult with a Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group," consisting of the majority leaders, majority whip, minority leader, and minority whip. The office has statutory authority to appear before state or federal courts in the course of performing its functions. 2 U.S.C. 130f. The office may appear as amicus curiae on behalf of the Speaker and the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group in litigation involving the institutional interests of the House. Where authorized by statute or resolution, the general counsel may represent the House itself in judicial proceedings.