The judge did not dismiss on the merits. He dismisses the case because the two transgender female athletes and two of the four plaintiffs graduated.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny dismissed a lawsuit against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference to stop transgender females from competing on female high school sports teams because the female students already graduated. (Chatigny’s Opinion PDF)
But Chatigny’s ruling might not hold up due to a recent SCOTUS decision.
From The Hartford Courant:
“I conclude that the plaintiffs’ challenge to the CIAC policy is not justiciable at this time and their claims for monetary relief are barred and dismiss the action on this basis without addressing the other grounds raised in the joint motion,” Chatigny wrote in a ruling released Sunday.
Chatigny stated that because the two transgender athletes, Terry Miller of Bloomfield and Andraya Yearwood of Cromwell, have graduated and the plaintiffs could no longer identify any other transgender female athletes, there was no further dispute to resolve.
“I conclude that the request to enjoin enforcement of the CIAC policy has become moot due to the graduation of Yearwood and Miller, whose participation in girls’ track provided the impetus for this action,” he wrote. “There is no indication that [two of the plaintiffs Alanna] Smith and [Ashley] Nicoletti will encounter competition by a transgender student in a CIAC-sponsored event next season.
“Defendants’ counsel have represented that they know of no transgender student who will be participating in girls’ track at that time. It is still theoretically possible that a transgender student could attempt to do so. Even then, however, a legally cognizable injury to these plaintiffs would depend on a transgender student running in the same events and achieving substantially similar times. Such ‘speculative contingencies’ are insufficient to satisfy the case.”
So Chatigny left open a possibility for the plaintiffs to bring forth “a new challenge if additional transgender athletes were to compete during the coming year.”
Athlete Chelsea Mitchell said: “It’s discouraging that the court ruled to dismiss my right to compete on a level playing field. Today’s ruling ignores the physical advantages that male athletes have over female athletes. Female athletes like me should have the opportunity to excel and compete fairly. No girl should have to settle into her starting blocks knowing that, no matter how hard she works, she doesn’t have a fair shot at victory.”
Mitchell and Selina Soule, like the two transgender athletes, already graduated.
So if other transgender females try to compete then Alanna Smith and Ashley Nicoletti, both juniors, can file another lawsuit.
Chatigny also did not revise “the placement of Miller and Yearwood in races they ran.” He did not award any monetary damages to the plaintiffs.
Students who sue lose their “standing” after they graduate.
However, Chatigny’s ruling might not hold up thanks to a SCOTUS decision in March.
In 2017, a student sued his school for allegedly violating his free speech rights. The case lingered and the student graduated.
SCOTUS ruled on the case on March 8. From Professor Jacobson’s post:
The U.S. Supreme Court issued an Opinion authored by Justice Thomas on March 8, 2021, in the case, with the issue turning on whether someone who claimed only “nominal” damages was able to sue. The Court held that such a free speech denial was actionable, with only Chief Justice Roberts dissenting.
The problem for a student who sues is that in a matter of a small number of years, the student graduates while the lawsuit can linger. The issue is whether once the student graduates, the student still has a personal interest in the case sufficient to satisfy the “standing” requirement. Here, the student claimed nominal damages as a continuing injury.
Justice Thomas and seven other Justices agreed the student could maintain the lawsuit. From the Thomas majority opinion:
At all stages of litigation, a plaintiff must maintain a personal interest in the dispute. The doctrine of standing generally assesses whether that interest exists at the outset, while the doctrine of mootness considers whether it exists throughout the proceedings. To demonstrate standing, the plaintiff must not only establish an injury that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct but must also seek a remedy that redresses that injury. And if in the course of litigation a court finds that it can no longer provide a plaintiff with any effectual relief, the case generally is moot. This case asks whether an award of nominal damages by itself can redress a past injury. We hold that it can.
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