By Dave Andrusko
The Supreme Court, in a one-paragraph opinion, struck down a ruling from a lower court that allowed a Missouri state clerk to be sued for telling a pregnant teenager she must notify her parents before seeking to obtain an abortion without their consent. Justice Jackson filed a brief dissent.
The lawsuit was filed by a 17-year-old who claimed that court clerk Michelle Chapman violated her 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,” Stephen Neukam reported. “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 did get her abortion—she went to Illinois where she secured a judicial bypass—but sued anyway. “Two federal courts rejected Chapman’s claim that she was immune from the lawsuit.”
The High Court saw it otherwise, vacating the lower court’s ruling. The eight justices sent the case back to an appeals court to dismiss the case as moot, “accepting the clerk’s argument that the mootness was due to the Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v. Wade.”
However, in her four-page dissent, Jackson “noted the Munsingwear vacatur was previously reserved for ‘extraordinary’ or ‘exceptional’ cases, and said Chapman’s case was ‘far-from-exceptional.’”
Jackson continued, “I am concerned that contemporary practice related to so called ‘Munsingwear vacatur’ has drifted away from the doctrine’s foundational moorings.”
“In my view, it is crucial that we hold the line and limit the availability of Munsingwear vacatur to truly exceptional cases. To do otherwise risks considerable damage to first principles of appellate review, since at least three background precepts counsel against indiscriminate vacatur of a lower court’s judgment.”