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Case Name Liberty University, Inc. v. Geithner FA-VA-0001
Docket / Court 6:10-cv-00015-NKM ( W.D. Va. )
State/Territory Virginia
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Case Summary
On March 23, 2010, a private Christian university and individual citizens filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA") and the First, Fifth, and Tenth Amendments against the U.S. Departments of Health and Human ... read more >
On March 23, 2010, a private Christian university and individual citizens filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA") and the First, Fifth, and Tenth Amendments against the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, Justice, and the Treasury. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court for both declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("ACA") violated their constitutional freedoms by requiring them to provide or purchase health insurance coverage. Claiming that providing or purchasing health insurance would contravene their Christian faith, violate their freedom of association, and compel speech contrary to their beliefs, the plaintiffs sought an exemption from the ACA for themselves and other institutions and individuals with similar religious objections.

On August 13, 2010, the defendant federal departments moved to dismiss the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. First, the defendants argued that the Anti-Injunction Act barred a pre-enforcement challenge to the ACA because the law's key provisions would not take effect until 2014. Second, the defendants asserted that the ACA's provisions were authorized by Congress's enumerated powers. Third, the defendants argued that the ACA did not violate the plaintiffs' freedoms of speech, association, or religion.

On November 30, 2010, the District Court (Judge Norman K. Moon) granted the defendants' motion to dismiss. Judge Moon found that, while the plaintiffs had standing to sue and were not barred by the Anti-Injunction Act, the ACA was authorized by Congress's enumerated powers and did not violate the plaintiffs' constitutional freedoms. Liberty University v. Geithner, 753 F. Supp. 2d 611 (W.D. Va. 2010).

The plaintiffs appealed this dismissal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (Appeal No. 10-2347). On September 8, 2011, the Fourth Circuit panel (Judge Motz, with Judge Wynn concurring) vacated the original dismissal and sent the case back to the District Court for dismissal on different grounds: the panel reasoned that the Anti-Injunction Act prevented the court from having jurisdiction over a pre-enforcement challenge to the ACA. Judge Davis dissented, arguing that, while the Anti-Injunction Act did not bar the plaintiffs' claims, the ACA was valid legislation under Congress's commerce authority and thus that the District Court's dismissal for failure to state a claim was proper. 671 F.3d 391 (4th Cir. 2011).

The plaintiffs filed a petition for certiorari on October 12, 2011 (S.Ct. Case No. 11-438). On June 29, 2012, one day after deciding similar questions in NFIB v. Sebelius, the Supreme Court denied the cert petition. Liberty University v. Geithner, 133 S. Ct. 60 (2012). The plaintiffs petitioned for rehearing, arguing that the Supreme Court's decision in NFIB invalidated the Fourth Circuit's finding that the Anti-Injunction Act barred their claims. In a single order on November 26, 2012, the Supreme Court granted the petition for rehearing, granted the cert petition, and entered a judgment vacating the Fourth Circuit's judgment and sending the case back to the Fourth Circuit for further consideration in light of NFIB. Liberty University v. Geithner, 133 S. Ct. 679 (2012).

Fourth Circuit Judges Motz, Davis, and Wynn heard a second round of arguments in the case on May 16, 2013. On July 11, 2013, the Fourth Circuit (Judges Motz, Davis, and Wynn) affirmed the judgment of the District Court, holding that the ACA was a valid exercise of Congress's commerce authority and dismissing the case for failure to state a claim. Liberty University v. Lew, 733 F.3d. 72 (4th Cir.). The Fourth Circuit further found the plaintiffs' speech, association, and religious freedom claims meritless.

On September 10, 2013, the plaintiff filed a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court. On December 2, 2013, the Supreme Court denied the petition.

Hannah Swanson - 08/01/2013
Mallory Jones - 04/04/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Defendant-type
Hospital/Health Department
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Contraception
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Non-government non-profit
Causes of Action Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Defendant(s) U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
U.S. Dept. of Justice
U.S. Dept. of Labor
U.S. Dept. of the Treasury
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are an evangelical Christian liberal arts school and various evangelical Christian individuals who do not wish to comply with the requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.
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 None
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2013
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
6:10-cv-00015-NKM (W.D. Va.) 07/11/2013
FA-VA-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 03/23/2010
FA-VA-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint 07/30/2010
FA-VA-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion 11/30/2010 (753 F.Supp.2d 611) (W.D. Va.)
FA-VA-0001-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion 09/08/2011 (671 F.3d 391)
FA-VA-0001-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 11/07/2011 (W.D. Va.)
FA-VA-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Letter [Petition for a writ certiorari is denied] 06/29/2012 (133 S.Ct. 60)
FA-VA-0001-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 08/13/2012
FA-VA-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Letter [Petition for writ of certiorari granted] 11/26/2012 (133 S.Ct. 679)
FA-VA-0001-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion 07/11/2013 (733 F.3d 72)
FA-VA-0001-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Davis, Andre Maurice (Fourth Circuit, D. Md.)
FA-VA-0001-0004 | FA-VA-0001-0007
Moon, Norman K. (W.D. Va.)
FA-VA-0001-0003 | FA-VA-0001-0005 | FA-VA-0001-9000
Motz, Diana Jane Gribbon (Fourth Circuit)
FA-VA-0001-0004 | FA-VA-0001-0007
Wynn, James Andrew Jr. (Fourth Circuit)
FA-VA-0001-0004 | FA-VA-0001-0007
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers McAlister, Mary Elizabeth (Virginia)
FA-VA-0001-0001 | FA-VA-0001-0002 | FA-VA-0001-9000
McRorie, William Edward (Virginia)
FA-VA-0001-0001 | FA-VA-0001-0002 | FA-VA-0001-9000
Nikas, Nikolas T. (Arizona)
FA-VA-0001-0007
Staver, Anita L (Florida)
FA-VA-0001-0001 | FA-VA-0001-0002 | FA-VA-0001-9000
Staver, Mathew D. (Florida)
FA-VA-0001-0001 | FA-VA-0001-0002 | FA-VA-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Davis, Ethan P. (District of Columbia)
FA-VA-0001-9000
McElvain, Joel (District of Columbia)
FA-VA-0001-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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