Court Battles

Jackson pens solo dissent as Supreme Court vacates abortion ruling

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal court ruling upholding the right for a minor to go to court to get permission to undergo an abortion, with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson penning a solo dissent in the case.

The ruling from the court on Monday vacated a lower court ruling that a state court clerk could be sued for telling a pregnant teenager that the court must notify her parents of her attempt to get a court order to allow her to obtain an abortion without the consent of her parents. 

Jackson’s dissent focused on the use of Munsingwear vacatur, in which a case is vacated because it has become moot while pending review by a higher court — unless the party adversely impacted by the initial decision is not to blame for the “mootness.”

“I am concerned that contemporary practice related to so called ‘Munsingwear vacaturs’ has drifted away from the doctrine’s foundational moorings,” Jackson wrote in her dissent.

The case stems from a lawsuit in Missouri that court clerk Michelle Chapman violated a 17-year-old pregnant teenager’s rights. A minor is required under state law in Missouri to obtain parental permission to receive an abortion, but it also allows a minor to seek a court order bypassing that requirement. When the teenager went to the courthouse in 2018 to secure such a bypass, Chapman said she would have to let the teenager’s parents know about the hearing.

The teenager eventually went to Illinois and received such a judicial bypass and obtained an abortion. Two federal courts rejected Chapman’s claim that she was immune from the lawsuit.

But the Supreme Court on Monday rejected the lower court ruling that Chapman was not immune from the suit, sending it back to an appeals court to dismiss the lawsuit as moot, accepting the clerk’s argument that the mootness was due to the Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v. Wade. 

But Jackson argued in her brief dissent that the case became moot because Chapman and the teenager agreed to have the original case in a district court in Missouri dismissed, arguing that meant it was not unfair for Chapman to lose her right to appeal.

Jackson also noted the Munsingwear vacatur was previously reserved for “extraordinary” or “exceptional” cases, and said Chapman’s case was “far-from-exceptional.”

“In my view, it is crucial that we hold the line and limit the availability of Munsingwear vacatur to truly exceptional cases,” she wrote.

Tags Ketanji Brown Jackson Ketanji Brown Jackson Roe v. Wade Supreme Court

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