Clinical Law Center Hosted Moot in Impactful Transgender Rights Case


Kenosha Unified School District v. Whitaker mooted at Howard on March 9

On March 9, 2017, the Clinical Law Center hosted a moot for attorney Joseph Wardenski of Relman, Dane & Colfax, Counsel of record for the respondent in Kenosha Unified School District v. Whitaker, a case that was argued on March 29, 2017, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

In Kenosha Unified School District v. Whitaker, Whitaker alleged that Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD), discriminated against him on the basis of sex, in violation of Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. Whitaker argues that gender identity should be encompassed in the meaning of the word sex. KUSD argues that the word sex should be defined by the gender assigned at birth. The issues for review include: (1) whether the injunction preventing KUSD from enforcing their restroom policy for the duration of the case is proper, and (2) whether gender identity is encompassed by the term sex in Title IX.

Wardenski presented his case before a distinguished panel of judges, including:

Shannon Minter – Legal Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights

Javier Guzman – Former Deputy Associate Attorney General for the DOJ

John Paul Schnapper-Casteras – Special Counsel for Appellate and Supreme Court Advocacy NAACP-Legal Defense Fund

Daniel Wolff – Partner, Crowell & Moring

Wardenski argued that the principles of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in schools, afford transgender students protection from discrimination based on gender identity. Wardenski mentioned that it is important to protect and support transgender students during this vulnerable stage in life.

During a conversation with Attorney Wardenski, he stated that this case is about protecting the rights of transgender students. In that regard, his goal is to ensure that the principles of Title IX are recognized and that its protection is extended to transgender students. According to Wardenski, this case is very similar to Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., a case that the Supreme Court recently intended to review but subsequently remanded to the Fourth Circuit for further consideration in light of changes to the Department of Education under the Trump administration. Wardenski predicts that the Supreme Court will review the merits of this issue within the next five to ten years.

In preparing for argument, Wardenski conducted a thorough review of Title IX, the facts of the case, and the statistics that support his client’s position. He also listened to Seventh Circuit oral arguments to assess the questioning styles of the judges. In order to prepare for the moot and the March 29 oral argument, Wardenski noted that practice will be key. After the argument, Wardenski plans to continue fighting to ensure that the rights of transgender people are protected in education and in housing.

By the Clinical Law Center Civil Rights Clinic at Howard University School of Law