University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Communities Equity v. Michigan High School Athletic Ass'n ED-MI-0003
Docket / Court 98-cv-00479 ( W.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Education
Attorney Organization National Women's Law Center
Case Summary
On June 26, 1998, a class of high school girls in Michigan filed this complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan under §1983, alleging that the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) violated provisions of Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the ... read more >
On June 26, 1998, a class of high school girls in Michigan filed this complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan under §1983, alleging that the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) violated provisions of Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Represented by private counsel and by the National Women's Law Center and Equity Legal, the plaintiffs contended that MHSAA refused to authorize additional sports for high school girls, provided inferior practice and playing facilities for post-season tournaments held in certain girls' sports, and required girls to play certain sports in disadvantageous seasons. This allegedly reduced participation opportunities for high school girls by shortening playing seasons, thereby preventing participation in club competitions and all-star competitions involving players from other states and negatively affecting their chances of being recruited for collegiate-level sports programs.

MHSAA defended by arguing that its placement of the girls' sports seasons at issue was advantageous for female athletes and thus not discriminatory. The MHSAA also asserted that legitimate reasons (mostly logistical) existed for scheduling some male and female teams of the same sports in different seasons.

On April 19, 1999, the District Court (Judge Richard Enslen) certified a class for the case of "all present and future female students enrolled in MHSAA member schools who participate in interscholastic athletics or who are deterred from participating in interscholastic athletics because of Defendants' discriminatory conduct and who are adversely affected by that conduct." 192 F.R.D. 568, 570 (W.D. Mich. 1999)

On September 30, 1999, the Justice Department filed an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs. In addition, the Justice Department asked the court to allow the Justice Department to intervene on the plaintiffs' side. Judge Enslen allowed the United States to participate as “litigating amicus” on behalf of the class of Michigan high school girls.

On January 21, 2000, the district court (Judge Richard Enslen) denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment. 80 F.Supp.2d 729. Judge Enslen granted MHSAA permission to take an interlocutory appeal, but a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals denied permission to appeal.

In the summer of 2001, the parties participated in mediation which resulted in a settlement of all claims except for the issue of when the female athletes would have their playing seasons. That issue went to trial. (In May 2001, the court first released two opinions on evidentiary matters, which are misdated in Westlaw. 2007 WL 5830967 (correct date: May 2, 2001), 2007 WL 9221306 (May 2, 2001);

The court conducted a two-week bench trial in September 2001 and received evidence concerning the following questions: (1) whether MHSAA, by assuming controlling authority over interscholastic athletics from member schools that receive federal funds, is subject to Title IX; (2) whether MHSAA is a state actor; and (3) whether MHSAA's scheduling of only girls' sports in disadvantageous seasons violated Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause.

On September 24, 2001, the trial began on the scheduling of seasons issue and lasted two weeks. On December 17, 2001, the court found for the plaintiffs on all three issues. The court held that MHSAA is subject to Title IX and is a state actor, and that its scheduling practices violated Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. The court ordered MHSAA to submit a compliance plan to remedy the discriminatory scheduling of girls' sports.

Throughout early 2002, the parties fought over what kind of injunctive relief should be
ordered. MHSAA submitted a compliance plan, which Plaintiffs and the United States opposed. Plaintiffs suggested other options, including the scheduling of boys and girls in the same season in all sports. MHSAA rejected this option outright, claiming that its
member schools did not want it. Alternatively, Plaintiffs suggested flipping the girls’ basketball and volleyball seasons because doing so would not impact any boys’ sports. They then suggested moving girls’ swimming to the winter to not only take advantage of the better season but to provide much needed athletic participation options for girls in the winter. They further suggested moving girls’ soccer and/or golf to the fall. Again, MHSAA rejected those options. The Court held a public, evidentiary hearing on the compliance plan on July 26, 2002.

Recognizing that any compliance plan must change the girls’ volleyball and basketball seasons in order to be equitable, the Court rejected the compliance plan and gave MHSAA another opportunity to submit its own plan. MHSAA polled its member schools and held informational meetings throughout the state to discuss various options. The compliance options submitted to the schools were widely circulated in the press and were widely submitted to the schools, the coaching associations, the athletic directors’ association, the principals, the superintendents, and the school boards. In the end, MHSAA submitted the option that it contended that its members and affiliated groups most supported. Although Plaintiffs again objected to the plan (Dkt #612), the Court approved it on November 8, 2002, and amended it on February 27, 2003.

MHSAA was given a court-approved compliance scheme, which was to be implemented throughout Michigan by the 2004-2005 school year.

The Court ultimately approved the rest of MHSAA's remedial plan, finding that the switching of the remaining sports at issue (soccer, golf, tennis, swimming, and diving) balanced the inequity of nontraditional playing seasons between high school boys and girls in Michigan.

The plaintiffs filed a fee petition on January 30, 2002 seeking $5,155,136.05-- $5,023,991.25 in attorneys' fees and $131,144.80 in costs.

On appeal, in July 2004, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling that MHSAA's scheduling of sports violated the Equal Protection Clause. 377 F.3d 504 (6th Cir. 2004).

MHSAA then sought review by the Supreme Court. On May 2, 2005, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment and instructed the Sixth Circuit to reconsider the case in light of Rancho Palos Verdes v. Abrams, 544 U.S. 113 (2005), a case addressing the availability of damages under federal statutes. On August 16, 2006, the Sixth Circuit issued an opinion that again affirmed the district court's ruling that the sports schedule discriminates against female athletes on the basis of sex. 459 F.3d 676 (6th Cir. 2006). On December 7, 2006, the Sixth Circuit denied rehearing and rehearing en banc.

Defendants again sought review by the Supreme Court, but on April 20, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review. 549 U.S. 1322.

Shortly following that denial, the Michigan High School Tennis Coaches' Association and several parents filed a Motion to Intervene seeking to modify the Compliance Plan to maintain the Lower Peninsula high school girls' tennis season during the fall. On June 7, 2007, a second Motion to Intervene was filed by some coaches of Upper Peninsula high school girls' soccer teams and several additional parents, seeking to modify the Compliance Plan to maintain girls' soccer in the Upper Peninsula during the spring season. On June 12, 2007, a third Motion to Intervene was filed by some coaches of Upper Peninsula high school boys' soccer teams and certain parents of team members, as next friends, seeking to modify the Compliance Plan to maintain boys' soccer in the Upper Peninsula during the fall season. The Court denied these motions as untimely. 2007 WL 2078753 (July 13, 2007).

On March 31, 2008, the court awarded the plaintiff $4.4 million in attorneys' fees and over $130,000 in costs, plus interest. 2008 WL 906031 (Mar. 31, 2008). On August 14, 2008, the court also awarded Plaintiffs’ counsel an additional $94,309 in fees and expenses related to litigating fees. 2008 WL 3834024.

The defendants appealed, but on April 1, 2009, the parties negotiated and entered into a Settlement Agreement pursuant to which plaintiffs agreed to payment of a lesser amount in satisfaction of the fee judgments so as to not compromise defendant’s ability to operate the sports programs it provided the student-athletes in the state of Michigan. Specifically, the Settlement Agreement included that the plaintiff pay $6 million in full and complete resolution of any and all claims that Plaintiffs may have against the MSHAA arising out of, or relating to, the Litigation, the Fees Judgments, or any other fact, transaction, or occurrence as of the date of this Agreement.

Upon the Agreement, the parties submitted a mutually accepted stipulated order for approval to the Sixth Circuit, and the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal with prejudice and without costs. The court approved the Settlement Agreement on April 3, 2009.

Ginny Lee - 03/17/2017

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Student assignment
Elementary/Secondary School
Sex discrimination
Classification / placement
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq.
Defendant(s) Michigan High School Athletic Association
Plaintiff Description All present and future female students enrolled in Michigan schools who participate in interscholastic athletics or who are deterred from participating in interscholastic athletics because of Defendants' discriminatory conduct and who are adversely affected by that conduct.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations National Women's Law Center
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2004 - 2005
Filing Year 1998
Case Closing Year 2010
Case Ongoing No
1:98-cv-00479-PLM (W.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/03/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order and Opinion (26 F.Supp.2d 1001) (W.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0003-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/16/1998
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (192 F.R.D. 568) (W.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0003-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/19/1999
Source: Westlaw
Opinion (80 F.Supp.2d 729) (W.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0003-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/21/2000
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (137 F.Supp.2d 910) (W.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0003-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/06/2001
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (178 F.Supp.2d 805) (W.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0003-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Date: 12/17/2001
Opinion (377 F.3d 504)
ED-MI-0003-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/27/2004
Source: Google Scholar
Order (544 U.S. 1012)
ED-MI-0003-0015.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/02/2005
Source: Supreme Court website
Opinion (459 F.3d 676)
ED-MI-0003-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Date: 08/16/2006
Opinion (2007 WL 5830967) (W.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0003-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/02/2007
Source: Westlaw
Opinion (2007 WL 9221306) (W.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0003-0011.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/02/2007
Source: Westlaw
Opinion (2007 WL 2078753) (W.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0003-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/13/2007
Source: Westlaw
Opinion (2008 WL 906031) (W.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0003-0013.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/31/2008
Source: Westlaw
Opinion (2008 WL 3834024) (W.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0003-0014.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/14/2008
Source: Westlaw
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 770]
ED-MI-0003-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/18/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae Supporting Appellees and Urging Affirmance
ED-MI-0003-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 08/15/2013
Judges Enslen, Richard Alan (W.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0003-0003 | ED-MI-0003-0006 | ED-MI-0003-0007 | ED-MI-0003-0008 | ED-MI-0003-0009 | ED-MI-0003-0010 | ED-MI-0003-0011 | ED-MI-0003-0012 | ED-MI-0003-0013 | ED-MI-0003-0014
Gilman, Ronald Lee (Sixth Circuit)
ED-MI-0003-0002 | ED-MI-0003-0005
Kennedy, Cornelia Groefsema (E.D. Mich., Sixth Circuit)
Maloney, Paul Lewis (W.D. Mich.)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bohnenstengel, Robin K. (Massachusetts)
Burr, Barbara Ann (District of Columbia)
Chaudhry, Neena K. (District of Columbia)
Cohan, Philip L. (District of Columbia)
Galles, Kristen Marie (Virginia)
Greenberger, Marcia D. (District of Columbia)
Lang, Lindsey Bishop (District of Columbia)
Pinsky, H. Rhett (Michigan)
Warin, Roger E (District of Columbia)
Defendant's Lawyers Azkoul, William M. (Michigan)
Bos, Carole D. (Michigan)
Fusco, Timothy A. (Michigan)
Sikorski, Edmund J. Junior (Michigan)
Other Lawyers Anderson, Robert C. (Michigan)
Bush, Allen S. (Michigan)
Deming, Stuart H. (Michigan)
Dimsey, Dennis J. (District of Columbia)
Dunne, Sarah A. (District of Columbia)
Friedman, Richard D. (Michigan)
Gross, Charles R. (Michigan)
Kaanta, Leonard A. (Michigan)
Kwong, Teresa (District of Columbia)
Meyer, Matthew L. (Michigan)
Shek, James (Michigan)
Walton, Garry L. (Michigan)
Wiggins, J. Michael (District of Columbia)

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