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Case Name Zubik v. Sebelius [II] FA-PA-0010
Docket / Court 2:13-cv-01459-AJS ( W.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Special Collection Contraception Insurance Mandate
Case Summary
This case is one of the many filed in federal district courts across the country by non-profit Catholic organizations challenging the ACA's system for ensuring that employee health insurance covers birth control. Specifically, the plaintiffs objected to notifying the government or their health ... read more >
This case is one of the many filed in federal district courts across the country by non-profit Catholic organizations challenging the ACA's system for ensuring that employee health insurance covers birth control. Specifically, the plaintiffs objected to notifying the government or their health insurer that they were claiming a religious exemption from the ACA regulation's mandatory insurance coverage for contraception. The current regulatory accommodation allows religious organizations who object for religious reasons to providing contraceptive coverage for their employees to notify their insurer, or notify the government directly, of that objection. Then, the government will work with the insurer or health benefits provider to ensure the employees have access to contraception. The religious employers claim that this approach violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because they see their action of notifying the government as starting a chain of events that results in their employees receiving contraception.

This particular lawsuit was filed by Bishop Zubik of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. (Their first litigation effort, filed in 2012, was dismissed as unripe. See Zubik v. Sebelius [I] for that first case.)

After the current regulations were finally issued in 2013, the plaintiffs filed this second lawsuit in the Western District of Pennsylvania on October 8, 2013. On October 8, 2013, the plaintiffs also filed a motion for expedited preliminary injunction asking the court to enjoin issuance, application, and enforcement of the contraception mandate's self-certification procedures. On November 21, 2013, the court (Judge Arthur J. Schwab) granted the plaintiffs' motion for expedited preliminary injunction. 983 F.Supp.2d 576. The court held that complying with the certification requirement contraception mandate would cause injury to the plaintiffs' religious liberties and that there was a high likelihood of success on the merits of the RFRA and First Amendment claims. On December 20, 2013, Judge Schwab granted the plaintiffs' unopposed motion to convert the preliminary injunction into a permanent injunction. 2013 WL 6922024. The court recognized that the while the Diocese itself was exempt from the contraception mandate as a religious employer, the new regulation required the remaining affiliated organizations to tell the government about their religious objection to contraception. The Court held that the remaining plaintiffs demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of success on their RFRA challenge, noting that requiring self-certification represented a substantial burden on their religious exercise by compelling them to start the chain of events that ends with contraceptive products and services being provided to their employees. The Court was concerned that the Church and its affiliated nonprofits had different responsibilities under the mandate.

On February 11, 2014, the government appealed the permanent injunction. This case was consolidated on appeal with Geneva College v. Sebelius and Persico v. Sebelius. On February 11, 2015, the Third Circuit (Judge Marjorie Rendell) reversed the injunction in an order that applied to all the consolidated cases, holding that the accommodation to the contraceptive services mandate does not significantly burden the religious expression of the nonprofit entities affiliated with the churches in this case. 778 F.3d 422

On April 5, 2015, in an order that applied to this case and Persico v. Sebelius, the Third Circuit denied the plaintiffs' petition for rehearing en banc. On April 15, 2015, the Third Circuit denied the plaintiffs' motion for stay pending petition for writ of certiorari. On April 16, 2015, the Supreme Court granted a stay pending a response to the plaintiffs' petition for writ of certiorari. 135 S. Ct. 1544.

On November 6, 2015, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case on the issue of whether notifying the federal government by signing a form identifying the employer as a religious nonprofit that objected to the contraceptive services mandate violated the RFRA, or, rather, satisfies that statute's standard as the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling government interest. 136 S.Ct. 444. This case was consolidated with six other cases dealing with this issue: Priests for Life v. Sebelius, Southern Nazarene University v. Sebelius, Geneva College v. Sebelius, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington v. Sebelius, East Texas Baptist University v. Sebelius, and Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Sebelius.

This case was argued on March 23, 2016. On March 29, 2016, in an unusual move, the Supreme Court directed the parties to file supplemental briefs suggesting a solution to their disagreement, in which employees could still receive contraception coverage without employers giving any notice to the government. On May 16, 2016, the Court issued a per curiam order remanding all seven cases to their respective courts of appeals, ordering the lower courts to give the parties time to come to agreement on an approach that that "accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans 'receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.'" 136 S.Ct 1557, 1560. The Court took no position on the merits of this case. This case is now being considered on remand by the Third Circuit.

Richard Jolly - 03/10/2014
Kate Craddock - 06/06/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Establishment Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Hospital/Health Department
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Abortion
Contraception
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Defendant(s) Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Labor
Department of Treasury
Plaintiff Description The Reverend David A. Zubik, as Trustee of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, a charitable trust; the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, as the Beneficial Owner of the Pittsburgh series of the Catholic Benefits Trust; and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Inc, collectively the Romance Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 2013 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing FA-PA-0003 : Zubik v. Sebelius [I] (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0012 : Brandt, Bishop of The Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg v. Sebelius (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0005 : Geneva College v. Sebelius (W.D. Pa.)
FA-DC-0018 : Priests for Life v. Sebelius (D.D.C.)
FA-DC-0001 : Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington v. Sebelius (D.D.C.)
FA-TX-0005 : East Texas Baptist University v. Sebelius (S.D. Tex.)
FA-CO-0006 : Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Sebelius (D. Colo.)
FA-OK-0005 : Southern Nazarene University v. Sebelius (W.D. Okla.)
Docket(s)
2:13-cv-1459 (W.D. Pa.) 10/01/2015
FA-PA-0010-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 10/09/2013
FA-PA-0010-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Re: Motion for Protective Order (Doc. No. 39) 11/07/2013 (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0010-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Order Denying Motions to Strike Certification 11/20/2013 (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0010-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion Re: Plaintiffs' Motions for Expedited Preliminary Injunction 11/21/2013 (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0010-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order of Court Granting Plaintiffs' Motions for Expedited Preliminary Injunction 11/21/2013 (983 F.Supp.2d 576) (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0010-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Final Judgment and Order 12/20/2013 (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0010-0006.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion 02/11/2015 (778 F.3d 422)
FA-PA-0010-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Sur Petition for Rehearing 04/06/2015
FA-PA-0010-0009.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 04/15/2015
FA-PA-0010-0010.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Bloomberg Law
Order 04/15/2015 (135 S.Ct. 1544)
FA-PA-0010-0013.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 04/16/2015
FA-PA-0010-0011.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order in Pending Case 06/29/2015 (135 S.Ct. 2924)
FA-PA-0010-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Supreme Court Order Granting Certiorari 11/06/2015 (136 S.Ct. 444)
FA-PA-0010-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Supreme Court website
Opinion 05/19/2016 (136 S.Ct. 1557)
FA-PA-0010-0014.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Alito, Samuel A. Jr. (SCOTUS, Third Circuit)
FA-PA-0010-0013
McKee, Theodore Alexander (Third Circuit)
FA-PA-0010-0010
Rendell, Marjorie O. (E.D. Pa., Third Circuit)
FA-PA-0010-0008 | FA-PA-0010-0009
Schwab, Arthur J. (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0010-0002 | FA-PA-0010-0003 | FA-PA-0010-0004 | FA-PA-0010-0005 | FA-PA-0010-0006 | FA-PA-0010-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers DeJulius, Leon F. Jr. (Pennsylvania)
FA-PA-0010-0001 | FA-PA-0010-9000
Goetz, John D. (Pennsylvania)
FA-PA-0010-0001 | FA-PA-0010-9000
Karoll, Ira M (Pennsylvania)
FA-PA-0010-0001 | FA-PA-0010-9000
Kilmartin, Alison J. (Pennsylvania)
FA-PA-0010-0001
McSorley, Jeffrey Albert (District of Columbia)
FA-PA-0010-9000
Pohl, Paul M. (Pennsylvania)
FA-PA-0010-0001 | FA-PA-0010-9000
Stahler, Mary Pat (Pennsylvania)
FA-PA-0010-0001 | FA-PA-0010-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bennett, Michelle Renee (District of Columbia)
FA-PA-0010-9000
Grogg, Adam Anderson (District of Columbia)
FA-PA-0010-9000
Humphreys, Bradley Philip (District of Columbia)
FA-PA-0010-9000
Other Lawyers Amiri, Brigitte A. (New York)
FA-PA-0010-9000
Lee, Jennifer (New York)
FA-PA-0010-9000
Mach, Daniel (District of Columbia)
FA-PA-0010-9000
Walczak, Witold J. (Pennsylvania)
FA-PA-0010-9000

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