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Case Name Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius FA-OK-0001
Docket / Court 5:12-CV-01000-HE ( W.D. Okla. )
State/Territory Oklahoma
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Special Collection Contraception Insurance Mandate
Case Summary
On September 12, 2012, a family of evangelical Christian business owners filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), and the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"), against the U.S. ... read more >
On September 12, 2012, a family of evangelical Christian business owners filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), and the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"), against the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, asked the court for both declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that federal rules adopted pursuant to the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("ACA") violated their sincerely held religious beliefs by requiring them to provide coverage for contraception through their companies' group health insurance plans. Specifically, the plaintiffs objected to the ACA rules requiring them to provide coverage for emergency contraception, which the plaintiffs considered an abortifacient. The plaintiffs did not object to other forms of contraception. Claiming that providing coverage for emergency contraception would both contravene their Christian faith and compel speech contrary to their beliefs, the plaintiffs sought an exemption from the ACA's contraception mandate for themselves and other business owners with similar religious objections.

On October 15, 2012, the District Court (Judge Joe Heaton) denied a group of current members of Congress leave to file an amicus curiae brief arguing for a broad application of RFRA. Judge Heaton found that the interests of the Congressmen coincided wholly with the interests of the plaintiffs, and that additional submissions addressing the application of RFRA were unnecessary.

In their brief opposing the injunction motion, filed October 22, 2012, the defendant Departments argued that the contraception mandate did not substantially burden the plaintiffs' religious liberty rights under RFRA, and that, regardless of the burden's magnitude, the regulations were the least restrictive means of advancing the government's compelling interests in public health and gender equality. The brief further argued that the mandate did not violate the plaintiff's religious freedom because it was a neutral law of general applicability.

On November 19, 2012, the District Court (Judge Heaton) denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, finding that secular, for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby did not have a constitutional right to religious freedom, and that the individual plaintiffs were not likely to prevail because the mandate was a neutral law of general applicability that was reasonably related to a legitimate government purpose. The Court further found that indirect financial support of subjectively objectionable conduct was not a substantial burden on the plaintiffs' religious freedom. Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, 870 F. Supp. 2d 1278 (W.D. Okla. 2012).

The plaintiffs appealed the injunction denial to the 10th Circuit. On December 12, 2012, District Court Judge Heaton granted the defendants' joint motion to stay the district court proceedings pending the 10th Circuit appeal. On December 20, 2012, the Court of Appeals (Judge Carlos F. Lucero and Judge David M. Ebel) denied the plaintiffs' motion for an injunction pending appeal on the same grounds as the District Court's injunction denial. Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, 2012 WL 6930302 (10th Cir.).

Following this denial, the plaintiffs applied to the Circuit Justice for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, for an injunction pending appellate review. On December 26, 2012, Justice Sotomayor denied this application, finding that the plaintiffs' entitlement to injunctive relief was not indisputably clear. Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, 133 S.Ct. 641 (2012).

On March 29, 2013, the 10th Circuit granted initial and expedited en banc review. That is, the Court decided to hear the case not via ordinary panel process, with rehearing en banc as a subsequent possibility, but rather initially in front of all the circuit's judges. Oral arguments occurred May 23, 2013.

On June 27, 2013, the 10th Circuit, en banc, reversed the District Court's injunction denial, finding that the plaintiffs were entitled to bring RFRA claims; that they had established a likelihood of successfully proving that the contraception mandate substantially burdened their RFRA rights; and that they had demonstrated irreparable harm. The 10th Circuit sent the case back to the District Court, asking the lower court to address two remaining prongs of the injunction inquiry (balance of equities and the effect on the public interest) and to decide whether to grant or deny the plaintiffs' motion for an injunction. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, 723 F.3d 1114, 2013 WL 3216103 (10th Cir. en banc).

The plaintiffs immediately filed an emergency motion asking the District Court to grant a temporary injunction pending the full injunction hearing. The District Court (Judge Heaton) granted this motion on June 28, 2013, followed up by a longer-lasting order on July 19, 2013 WL 3869832. The government sought certiorari review of the 10th Circuit decision in the Supreme Court; cert was granted on November 26, 2013. The Supreme Court consolidated this case with Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, a similar case from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

On June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court affirmed. In 5-4 opinion by Justice Alito, the Court held that the HHS regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate RFRA, when applied to closely-held for-profit corporations. The Court emphasized, however, that alternative methods for meeting the government's asserted interest were available. To quote the syllabus (which summarizes the opinion), "the Government could, e.g., assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives to women unable to obtain coverage due to their employers' religious objections. Or it could extend the accommodation that HHS has already established for religious nonprofit organizations to non-profit employers with religious objections to the contraceptive mandate. That accommodation does not impinge on the plaintiffs' religious beliefs that providing insurance coverage for the contraceptives at issue here violates their religion and it still serves HHS's stated interests." In addition, the Court insisted that its opinion was narrow: "This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer's religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice." Justice Ginsburg wrote the dissent, joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan (although Breyer and Kagan did not sign on to a few pages of the dissent that argued that for-profit corporations lacked rights under RFRA; they said this issue need not yet be decided).

Hannah Swanson - 07/18/2013
Tifani Sadek - 11/28/2013
- 06/30/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Establishment Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Defendant-type
Hospital/Health Department
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Contraception
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Closely-held (for profit) corporation
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Non-government for profit
Causes of Action Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. ยงยง 551 et seq.
Defendant(s) U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
U.S. Dept. of Labor
U.S. Dept. of the Treasury
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are a family of evangelical Christians who own and operate Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a retail business headquartered in Oklahoma City. Plaintiffs also own and operate Mardel, Inc., a bookstore and education company headquartered in Hobby Lobby's Oklahoma City complex. Due to their religious beliefs, Plaintiffs oppose the use of contraception.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2014
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing FA-CO-0003 : Newland v. Sebelius (D. Colo.)
FA-PA-0007 : Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius (E.D. Pa.)
FA-MO-0010 : Randy Reed Automotive v. Sebelius (W.D. Mo.)
FA-MN-0007 : Doboszenski & Sons, Inc. v. Sebelius (D. Minn.)
FA-IL-0007 : Hart Electric LLC v. Sebelius (N.D. Ill.)
Docket(s)
5:12-cv-01000-HE (W.D. Okla.) 11/26/2013
FA-OK-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Verified Complaint 09/12/2012
FA-OK-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Opening Brief in Support 09/12/2012
FA-OK-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Denying Members of Congress Leave to File Amicus Brief] 10/15/2012 (W.D. Okla.)
FA-OK-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction] 11/19/2012 (870 F.Supp.2d 1278) (W.D. Okla.)
FA-OK-0001-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Notice of Appeal 11/19/2012
FA-OK-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Motion to Stay District Court Proceedings Pending Appeal 12/10/2012
FA-OK-0001-0007.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting Joint Motion to Stay Pending Appeal] 12/12/2012 (W.D. Okla.)
FA-OK-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Denying Motion for Injunction Pending Appeal] 12/20/2012 (2012 WL 6930302)
FA-OK-0001-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Injunction Pending Appellate Review 12/26/2012 (133 S.Ct. 641 / 184 L.Ed.2d 448)
FA-OK-0001-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Order and Opinion 06/27/2013 (723 F.3d 1114)
FA-OK-0001-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Granting Emergency Motion for Ruling on TRO Pending Hearing on Motion for Preliminary Injunction] 06/28/2013 (W.D. Okla.)
FA-OK-0001-0011.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 07/19/2013 (2013 WL 3869832) (W.D. Okla.)
FA-OK-0001-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Abating Case] 11/26/2013
FA-OK-0001-0013.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Certiorari Granted 11/26/2013
FA-OK-0001-0014.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Supreme Court website
[Opinion] 06/30/2014 (134 S.Ct. 2751)
FA-OK-0001-0015.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Supreme Court website
Judges Alito, Samuel A. Jr. (Third Circuit, SCOTUS)
FA-OK-0001-0015
Bacharach, Robert Edwin (W.D. Okla., Tenth Circuit) [Magistrate]
FA-OK-0001-0010
Briscoe, Mary Beck (Tenth Circuit)
FA-OK-0001-0010
Ebel, David M. (Tenth Circuit)
FA-OK-0001-0009
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
FA-OK-0001-0015
Gorsuch, Neil M. (Tenth Circuit)
FA-OK-0001-0010
Hartz, Harris L. (Tenth Circuit)
FA-OK-0001-0010
Heaton, Joe L. (W.D. Okla.)
FA-OK-0001-0002 | FA-OK-0001-0005 | FA-OK-0001-0008 | FA-OK-0001-0011 | FA-OK-0001-0012 | FA-OK-0001-9000
Kelly, Paul Joseph Jr. (Tenth Circuit)
FA-OK-0001-0010
Lucero, Carlos F. (Tenth Circuit)
FA-OK-0001-0009 | FA-OK-0001-0010
Matheson, Scott Milne Jr. (Tenth Circuit)
FA-OK-0001-0010
Sotomayor, Sonia (SCOTUS, Second Circuit, S.D.N.Y.)
FA-OK-0001-0004
Tymkovich, Timothy M. (Tenth Circuit)
FA-OK-0001-0010
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Baxter, Eric S. (District of Columbia)
FA-OK-0001-0001 | FA-OK-0001-0003 | FA-OK-0001-0006 | FA-OK-0001-0007 | FA-OK-0001-9000
Duncan, S. Kyle (District of Columbia)
FA-OK-0001-0001 | FA-OK-0001-0003 | FA-OK-0001-0006 | FA-OK-0001-0007 | FA-OK-0001-9000
Ensminger, Derek B (Oklahoma)
FA-OK-0001-0001 | FA-OK-0001-0003 | FA-OK-0001-0006 | FA-OK-0001-0007 | FA-OK-0001-9000
Geister, Charles E. III (Oklahoma)
FA-OK-0001-0001 | FA-OK-0001-0003 | FA-OK-0001-0006 | FA-OK-0001-0007 | FA-OK-0001-9000
Keim, Adele A. (District of Columbia)
FA-OK-0001-9000
Windham, Lori H. (District of Columbia)
FA-OK-0001-0001 | FA-OK-0001-0003 | FA-OK-0001-0006 | FA-OK-0001-0007 | FA-OK-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bennett, Michelle Renee (District of Columbia)
FA-OK-0001-0007 | FA-OK-0001-9000
Coats, Sanford (District of Columbia)
FA-OK-0001-0007
Delery, Stuart F. (District of Columbia)
FA-OK-0001-0007
Gershengorn, Ian Heath (District of Columbia)
FA-OK-0001-0007
Lieber, Sheila M. (District of Columbia)
FA-OK-0001-0007
Ricketts, Jennifer (District of Columbia)
FA-OK-0001-0007
Other Lawyers Lester, Andrew W. (Oklahoma)
FA-OK-0001-9000
Vaughn, Carrie L. (Oklahoma)
FA-OK-0001-9000

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