Legal Defense


Federal Court Cases

United States Supreme Court

On April 24th, 2001 the United States Supreme Court, by a five to four margin, rejected a legal challenge to Alabama’s Official English law, which was a tremendous victory for Official English.

On January 16, 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Sandoval v. Alexander, a case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit held that the Alabama “Department of Public Safety’s . . . official policy of administering its driver’s license examination only in the English language [pursuant to a 1990 constitutional amendment stating that] “English is the official language of the state of Alabama, . . .” violates Title VI by creating an adverse, disproportionate impact on non-English speaking Alabama residents who wish to obtain a driver’s license.” U.S. English had filed an amicus brief in support of the Supreme Court accepting this case for review, and subsequently filed a merits amicus brief on November 13, 2000 . As explained in the attached Op-Ed by the Chairman of U.S.English, an adverse decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Sandoval could be the death knell of the great American melting-pot. In its merits brief, U.S. ENGLISH asked the Supreme Court to acknowledge what Senator Hayakawa identified twenty years ago as “what is already a political and social reality: That English is the official language of the United States.”

In Alexander v. Sandoval, the Supreme Court ruled that private lawyers had no right to sue the state under the federal anti-discrimination law. The Court Majority, led by Justice Antonin Scalia, held that private citizens were never authorized to sue under the Title’s disparate-impact regulations. The Court declared that Congress only prohibited intentional discrimination when it wrote Title VI, but left it up to the federal government to apply the discrimination ban to practices having unintended discriminatory effects. Thus, unless Sandoval could prove the Alabama driver’s test intentionally discriminated against her, she had no grounds to sue the state.