Samuel Bagenstos:  A Record of Fighting for Your Rights

 Sam Bagenstos and his wife, Margo Schlanger, with their teenage children.

Sam Bagenstos and his wife, Margo Schlanger, with their teenage children.

 

Samuel Bagenstos has been a civil rights lawyer for more than 20 years. Under President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, he served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice. He is now a professor of law at the University of Michigan. He graduated with highest honors and highest distinction from the University of North Carolina, and was first in his class at the Harvard Law School. Early in his career, Sam was a law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court. He has argued cases in courts throughout the country, including four civil rights cases in the Supreme Court of the United States. Throughout his career, Sam has fought for the rights of all people.  

Fighting for your rights is Sam's family business. Sam's wife, Margo Schlanger, is the Wade H. and Dores M. McCree Collegiate Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. She is one of the nation's leading experts on prison reform. President Obama appointed her to serve as the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security during his administration. Since the summer of 2017, Margo has been the lead lawyer in a case seeking to prevent the Trump Administration from engaging in mass deportations of Iraqi immigrants.

Sam and Margo live with their two teenage children in Ann Arbor.

Demanding Accountability for the Flint Water Crisis

In Mays v. Snyder, Sam has been representing Flint residents seeking relief for injuries they received in the Flint Water Crisis. When a federal district judge barred their constitutional claims from going forward, Sam took the case to the federal court of appeals and won—thus giving Flint residents a chance to make their case in court and hold the responsible officials accountable. 

Fighting for Women's Rights

Peggy Young was a UPS driver with a family to support. When she got pregnant with her third child, her bosses told her she had to stop driving and take an extended, unpaid leave of absence during which she lost her job-provided health coverage. Sam took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won—and established important new law protecting women against having to choose between a pregnancy and a job. As one headline in a story about Sam's victory put it, “For once, the Supreme Court sides with workers.

Sam also testified before Congress in support of the Fair Pay Restoration Act—the "Lilly Ledbetter Bill" that opened the courthouse doors to victims of pay discrimination.

 
 A copy of Sam's petition to the Supreme Court in Ehlena Fry's case, "signed" by Ehlena and her dog, Wonder.

A copy of Sam's petition to the Supreme Court in Ehlena Fry's case, "signed" by Ehlena and her dog, Wonder.

Protecting the Right to Vote

The very first case Sam ever argued in court was Voting Rights Coalition v. Wilson, a case seeking to enforce the federal “Motor Voter” law against a state that resisted the law's expansion of voter registration. Since then, he has repeatedly gone to court to defend the Voting Rights Act and challenge burdens on the right to vote.

Defending Workers' Rights

Sam has argued cases on behalf of workers in courts across the country. In three recent cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, he has filed briefs defending the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively through strong and stable unions.

Pursuing LGBT Rights

Sam has twice filed briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court to defend members of the LGBT community against discrimination.  He testified in Congress in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect workers against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

 
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 Courtroom sketch of Sam Bagenstos arguing Peggy Young's case before the Supreme Court.

Courtroom sketch of Sam Bagenstos arguing Peggy Young's case before the Supreme Court.

 

Defending the Rights of Americans with Disabilities

One of the nation's most prominent disability rights lawyers, Sam has argued three Americans with Disabilities Act cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and testified repeatedly before Congress on disability rights issues. 

Sam's most recent Supreme Court victory came in the case of Ehlena Fry. Ehlena is a girl from a working family in rural Michigan. She has cerebral palsy. When Ehlena was four years old, her doctor told her family that a service dog would enable her to move independently through the world, by helping her open doors, turn on lights, and get on and off the toilet, and by assisting with other tasks. The whole community in Brooklyn, Michigan, got together to raise money to pay for adopting and training the dog, a Goldendoodle named Wonder. But Ehlena's school was hostile to the dog. When the Fry family sued to enforce her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the courts knocked out the case on technical grounds without even hearing her claim. Sam took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won—thus preserving the family's right to have its day in court.

 
 Samuel Bagenstos before testifying in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Samuel Bagenstos before testifying in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

If elected as a Justice of the Supreme Court, all I can promise is that I would faithfully and impartially perform the duties of my office. I have been privileged to work for outstanding role models such as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Attorney General Eric Holder. They demonstrated a commitment to challenge injustices that need to be changed, to pursue the facts and law where they lead, and to never be afraid to do what is right. I would follow their example on the Michigan Supreme Court.
— Sam Bagenstos