U.S. Fourth Circuit - The FindLaw 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Gavin Grimm's Transgender Bathroom Case May Be Moot: Trial Court to Decide

In a transgender case of intense interest, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said the trial court should decide whether it is moot.

Gavin Grimm, a transgender student, sued his county school board for the right to use the boys' bathroom when he was a sophomore. He has since graduated, and the school board says now it is a moot point.

The appeals court sent the case, Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, back to resolve that issue.

There and Back

It was the third time the appeals court reviewed the case, which was filed in 2014. The first time, the judges reversed and remanded a trial court decision dismissing the case.

It went down and then back up on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ordered the Fourth Circuit to reconsider in light of the Trump Administration's new policy on transgender bathrooms. The case was scheduled for oral arguments in September, but the school board filed a supplemental brief after Grimm graduated in June.

The school board said that its bathroom policy does not apply to alumni and that unless Grimm has any "particular intention to return to school after graduation," the change in status "deprives Grimm of a continued interest in the litigation."

Grimm responded that he has a present interest because he intends to attend "alumni and school-community events." He said the school has not committed to "voluntarily cease discriminating" against him.

Present Interest

In an eight-page decision -- half of which named the parties and the interested amici -- the appeals court questioned its authority to proceed.

"Of course, at any stage of litigation, a federal court must have jurisdiction to resolve the merits of a dispute, as an absence of jurisdiction deprives a court of the power to act," Judge Paul Niemeyer wrote for the court.

The judges said all the facts submitted in the case were based on the parties' interests when Grimm was a student. The trial court should determine what interests still apply, the court said.

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