SCOTUS nullifies lower court ruling giving teen the right to seek an abortion without parental notification

Daily Caller News Foundation

The Supreme Court vacated a lower court’s ruling that found a Missouri teenager had a right to seek permission for an abortion without parental knowledge.

The case, Chapman v. Doe, was initially brought by a 17-year old girl, “Jane Doe,” against a state court clerk, Michelle Chapman, who Doe argues violated her Fourteenth Amendment rights by saying her parents would have to be notified if she wanted to apply for a judicial bypass to the state’s abortion parental consent requirement. Before its abortion ban took effect, Missouri law required minors to secure written parental consent before obtaining an abortion, a requirement that could be bypassed with a judge’s permission following a court hearing.

Chapman argued she had quasi-judicial immunity because the judge told her he would not hear the case without notifying the parents, but the Eighth Circuit ruled against Chapman’s immunity claim.

In a short paragraph, the Supreme Court declared the judgement vacated, remanding it to the Eight Circuit to be dismissed as moot.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson authored a four-page solo dissent, questioning what she sees as a “sharp uptick” in the use of an uncommon procedure called a “Munsingwear vacatur,” which allows the court to vacate decisions when a case becomes moot during its appeal. It also prevents the case from being used as precedent in the future.

“Our common-law system assumes that judicial decisions are valuable and should not be cast aside lightly,” she wrote. The procedure, she said, is typically available only in “extraordinary” cases.

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

Chapman initially appealed the Eighth Circuit decision to the Supreme Court in September, asking the court to consider whether Doe still had a right to a judicial bypass procedure without notifying her parents in light of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which found there was no constitutional right to an abortion. But, after the underlying case was dismissed in district court, both parties agreed the case was moot.

“In light of the dismissal with prejudice of the underlying case, Petitioner is not harmed by the Eighth Circuit’s opinion, so there is no relief the Court could give her,” said the court filing on behalf of Jane Doe.

Chapman agreed and sought a vacatur because it “prevents the decision from spawning legal consequences for similarly situated persons.”

Jackson argued this is not sufficient reason for using this procedure.

“Indeed, Chapman’s only argument in support of vacatur is that the Eighth Circuit’s opinion was wrongly decided,” she wrote. “But mere disagreement with the decision that one seeks to have vacated cannot suffice to warrant equitable relief under Munsingwear.”

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