NWCA’s Assault on Title IX Is Pinned in Appeals Court

Jun 19, 2004

The D.C. Circuit for the U.S. Court of Appeals has denied the appeal of the National Wrestling Coaches Association and other plaintiffs, who had alleged that Title IX and subsequent interpretations of the gender equity law had led to the shuttering of men’s sports programs throughout the nation.
In a split decision, the panel of judges concluded that the plaintiffs had failed to show that the defendant Department of Education through its interpretation of Title IX was directly responsible for a reduction in men’s sports programs, and that a favorable decision from the courts would redress that alleged injury. Both are necessary requirements in satisfying standing under Article III of the Constitution.
The basis of the plaintiffs’ claim was that the 3-part test enunciated in the 1979 Policy Interpretation and the subsequent 1996 Clarification violated the Constitution, Title IX, and the Administrative Procedure Act.
After the complaint was filed in federal court, the DOE moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue the claim. The district court granted the defendant’s motion, leading to the present appeal.
In its review, the panel, as mentioned above, concluded that the plaintiffs did not have standing.
“To satisfy the requirements of Article III standing in a case challenging government action, a part must allege an injury in fact that is fairly traceable to the challenged government action, and ‘it must be likely as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.” Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 562 (1992) (quoting Simon v. E. Ky. Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. 26, 38, 43 (1976))
The appeals court noted that the argument around causation made by the plaintiff could possibly be strong enough to survive a motion to dismiss.
However, the plaintiffs’ ability to show that a favorable decision would redress their perceived injuries, a requirement for standing, was non-existent.
“In several cases, the Supreme Court has made clear that a plaintiff’s standing fails when it is purely speculative that a requested change in government policy will alter the behavior of regulated third parties that are the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries,” wrote the panel. (National Wrestling Coaches Association et al. v. Department of Education, No. 03-5169
D.C. Cir., 5/14/04
Attorneys of Record: (for appellants) Lawrence J. Joseph. (for appellee) Thomas M. Bondy, attorney, DOJ; Peter D. Keisler, assistant attorney general; Roscoe C. Howard, Jr. and Mark B. Stern.


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