Brown v. Gilmore
533 U.S. 1301 (2001)

Annotate this Case

OCTOBER TERM, 2000

Syllabus

BROWN ET AL. v. GILMORE, GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA, ET AL.

ON APPLICATION FOR INJUNCTION

No. 01A194 (01-384). Decided September 12, 2001

The application of Virginia public school students and their parents for an injunction against enforcement of a Virginia statute requiring public schools to observe a "minute of silence" each schoolday, pending this Court's disposition of their petition for certiorari, is denied. Applicants, who claim that the statute establishes religion in violation of the First Amendment, have been unsuccessful in their repeated attempts to obtain injunctive relief from both the District Court and the Court of Appeals and in their attack on the statute's merits. The All Writs Act, this Court's only authority to issue an injunction against enforcement of a presumptively valid state statute, is appropriate only if the legal rights at issue are indisputably clear, Ohio Citizens for Responsible Energy, Inc. v. NRC, 479 U. S. 1312, 1313, which is not the case here. Finding that Virginia's statute has a clear secular purpose-namely, to provide a moment for quiet reflection in the wake of instances of violence in the public schools-the Court of Appeals distinguished the present case from Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U. S. 38, in which this Court struck down a similar Alabama statute that was conceded to have the purpose of returning prayer to the public schools. At the very least, the lower court's finding places some doubt on the question whether Virginia's statute establishes religion in violation of the First Amendment. Justice Powell stayed a District Court order dissolving a preliminary injunction in Wallace when the plaintiffs there alleged that teachers led their classes in prayer daily. Here, by contrast, after more than a year in operation, the minute of silence seems to have meant just that. Also, that applicants did not make an immediate application to a Justice in September 2000, after the Court of Appeals denied their request for an injunction pending appeal, is somewhat inconsistent with the urgency they now assert.


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Opinion in Chambers

CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST, Circuit Justice.

This case is before me on an application for injunctive relief pending writ of certiorari pursuant to 28 U. S. C. § 1651. Applicants seek an order enjoining further implementation of Virginia's mandatory "minute of silence" statute, Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-203 (2000), pending this Court's disposition of their petition for certiorari which has been filed contemporaneously with this application. The petition for certiorari seeks review of a decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the constitutionality of § 22.1-203. See 258 F.3d 265 (CA4 2001). For the reasons that follow, I conclude that an injunction should not issue.

Applicants are Virginia public school students and their parents who challenge the constitutionality of a state statute, effective as of July 1, 2000, that requires all of Virginia's public schools to observe a minute of silence at the start of each schoolday. They challenge the statute on its face, contending that it establishes religion in violation of the First Amendment. For the past year, applicants have repeatedly sought temporary and permanent injunctive relief from both the District Court and the Court of Appeals to enjoin Virginia's enforcement and implementation of this statute. On August 31, 2000, the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia held a hearing on applicants' motion for preliminary injunctive relief in light of the approaching school year. This motion was denied. Applicants then requested that the District Court enter an injunction pending appeal, which was also denied. They then moved in the Court of Appeals for an injunction pending appeal. This motion was denied as well.

Applicants have been no more successful on the merits.

On October 26,2000, the District Court granted respondents' motion for summary judgment and dismissed applicants' challenge in its entirety. Applicants then sought expedited review in the Court of Appeals, which was denied. On July 24, 2001, a divided panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed the


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Full Text of Opinion

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