Rule of Law

March 2024 Newsletter: CAC Fights for Economic Justice

This February, CAC was proud to announce that David Gans, Director of CAC’s Civil Rights, Human Rights & Citizenship Program, will be publishing his groundbreaking new scholarship in the George Washington Law Review. David’s article, “’I Am Free But Without a Cent’: Economic Justice As Equal Citizenship,” makes the compelling case that the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments offer important protections for the poorest of Americans. As David explains, the rights of the poor and powerless to enjoy fundamental freedoms and meaningful equality lie at the very core of the Fourteenth Amendment’s text and history, and should ensure that no one will be “free but without a cent,” as one formerly enslaved man poignantly described his situation in a letter to President Lincoln. David argues that this fuller vision of constitutional protection for the poor and powerless has important implications for modern litigators.

We look forward to using David’s research in our work to fight for economic justice in the courts. Indeed, that is a fight that is already well underway, as we have recently filed amicus briefs in cases with major implications for workers, consumers, and homeowners.

In Bissonnette v. LePage Bakeries Park St., LLC, a corporate bakery chain argued that their drivers, who alleged that the company violated federal and state wage laws, could not get their day in court because of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), even though the FAA exempts “transportation workers.” According to the company, that exemption didn’t matter because, in their view, the drivers worked in the “baking industry” and not the “transportation industry.” CAC filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court explaining why this argument is contrary to the text and history of the FAA. As Appellate Counsel Miriam Becker-Cohen explained after the Court heard oral argument in the case, “The FAA exemption’s plain text mandates that all transportation workers, regardless of who employs them, should get their day in court when they allege that their rights have been violated by their employer. We urge the Supreme Court to follow that plain text.”

CAC also encouraged the Supreme Court to reject a challenge to a New York State law that protects homeowners by requiring mortgage lenders to share the profits earned by interest-generating mortgage escrow accounts. As Appellate Counsel Smita Ghosh stated after oral argument in Cantero v. Bank of America, states have regulated the banks within their borders—including national banks—since the passage of the National Banking Act during the Civil War, and banking laws should only be preempted in their application to national banks when they “significantly interfere” with banks’ performance of public functions.

And CAC is currently working on an amicus brief that will be filed in a case the Supreme Court will be hearing this April. In that case, the Court will be considering a challenge to a local ordinance that would essentially criminalize homelessness in the city of Grants Pass, Oregon. Stay tuned for next month’s newsletter to read more about our brief in the case.

Also at the Supreme Court, CAC scored an important victory for honest textualism with the Court’s decision in United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Rural Housing Service v. Kirtz. The Supreme Court held that the federal government is subject to suit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The Court’s decision in Kirtz rejected an unsupported, ahistorical argument that would have expanded the scope of the government’s immunity from suit. This decision is a big victory for consumers and access to the courts.

CAC fights for economic justice in the lower courts, as well. Earlier this month, the federal district court of New Jersey heard oral argument in Bristol Myers Squibb v. Becerra and Janssen v. Becerra. In these cases, drug manufacturers challenged the Inflation Reduction Act’s prescription drug price negotiation program, making the unbelievable argument that under the Takings Clause of the Constitution, the government must continue to buy drugs at any price the manufacturers name. CAC filed an amicus brief explaining that this reading of the Takings Clause is at odds with the text and history of the Constitution.

Needless to say, the fight for economic justice will surely continue in courts around the country on a host of different issues. CAC is proud to be engaged in that fight.


  • Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, Inc. v. Byrd — The Florida Supreme Court is considering whether a congressional map diminishes the voting power of Black Floridians in violation of the Florida Constitution. CAC’s brief argues, among other things, that plaintiffs do not need to establish geographic compactness to bring a claim under the non-diminishment provision of the Fair Districts Amendment of the Florida Constitution. Florida Supreme Court, filed March 11.


  • Trump v. Anderson — The Supreme Court ruled that states cannot enforce Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment against federal officeholders and candidates absent congressional legislation, reversing the decision of the Colorado Supreme Court. Supreme Court, decision rendered March 4.


  • Trump v. United States  The Supreme Court considered whether to stay federal criminal proceedings against former president Donald Trump. CAC’s brief on behalf of constitutional law scholars urged the justices to reject the application for a stay and allow the proceedings to continue. The Supreme Court granted cert and paused the proceedings until the scope of Trump’s immunity is determined by the Court, with oral argument scheduled for April 25. Supreme Court, filed February 13, decision rendered February 28.


  • Petteway v. Galveston County — The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is considering whether a group of Black and Latino voters can challenge the dilution of their voting power under the Voting Rights Act. CAC’s brief argues that the text and history of the Fifteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act sweep broadly to protect all communities of color and that when Black and Latino citizens vote as a cohesive bloc, they are a single class of voters protected by the VRA from vote dilution. Fifth Circuit, filed February 21.


  • Department of Agriculture Rural Development Rural Housing Service v. Reginald Kirtz — CAC WIN – In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held that the federal government is subject to suit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Echoing CAC’s brief, Justice Gorsuch wrote that the text of the statute clearly waives the United States’ sovereign immunity. Supreme Court, decision rendered February 8.








  • February 19: CAC President Elizabeth Wydra and CAC Counsel Nina Henry published an op-ed in Washington Monthly that explains that presidents are not above the law and discusses the Trump’s presidential immunity case and ballot ineligibility case. “A Presidents’ Day Reminder That Presidents Are Not Kings.”



  • February 15: CAC Vice President Praveen Fernandes was quoted in an article in The Nation discussing the weaponization of Congress’s impeachment power in relation to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “The Mayorkas Impeachment Is Just the Latest GOP Stunt.”



Welcome, Olurotimi!

CAC is pleased to announce that Olurotimi Odewole has joined our staff as CAC’s new Office Manager. Prior to joining CAC, he was a Paralegal for the Body Worn Camera Unit at the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office. He also interned at the Evan Guthrie Law Firm and Seltzer Mayberg, LLC. We are so excited to welcome Olurotimi to the CAC team!