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Case Name Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington v. Sebelius FA-DC-0001
Docket / Court 1:12-cv-00815-ABJ ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Special Collection Contraception Insurance Mandate
Case Summary
On May 21, 2012, the Catholic Archbishop of Washington and several affiliated Catholic organizations filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs sued the federal government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (42 U.S.C. § 2000bb), the ... read more >
On May 21, 2012, the Catholic Archbishop of Washington and several affiliated Catholic organizations filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs sued the federal government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (42 U.S.C. § 2000bb), the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. § 706(2)), and the First Amendment. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought to enjoin enforcement of provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) extending universal contraception coverage in employer-sponsored private health insurance coverage. The plaintiffs contended that this mandatory contraception coverage violated their sincerely held religious beliefs.

On January 25, 2013, Judge Amy Berman Jackson granted the government's motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims for a lack of ripeness, as regulations regarding the contraceptive mandate were under review by the Department of Health and Human Services.

On March 25, 2013, the plaintiffs appealed the court's dismissal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. On October 31, 2013, the Court of Appeals dismissed the plaintiffs' claims as moot due to the newly issued regulations regarding the ACA contraception mandate.

On September 20, 2013, the plaintiffs refiled this case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, joined by a number of additional affiliated Catholic nonprofit organizations, objecting to the final regulations updating the contraceptive mandate issued on June 28, 2013. They alleged that under the previous version of the regulations, nonprofit organizations affiliated with a house of worship that benefited from its self-insured plan could also benefit from its exemption to the mandate, and asserted this shelter was no longer available.

Similar to the initial complaint, the plaintiffs objected to being required to notify their insurers and or third-party health insurance administrators of their objection to the contraceptive services mandate, and asserted violations of the RFRA, APA, and their rights under the First Amendment.

On December 21, 2013, the plaintiffs appealed this case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and on December 23, 2013, the District Court denied the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction pending appeal.

On January 17, 2014, the government cross-appealed to the DC Circuit Court (14-5021). On January 23, 2014, the plaintiffs’ appeal was consolidated with the the government’s cross-appeal, and Priests for Life v. Sebelius. The Court of Appeals (Judge Cornelia T.L. Pillard) ruled on November 14, 2014, that the accommodation the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has designed for religious nonprofits to comply with the contraceptive coverage mandate does not burden the plaintiffs' religious freedom. 772 F.3d 229 (D.C. Cir. 2014). On May 20, 2015, the Court of Appeals denied the plaintiffs' request for rehearing en banc, reasoning that the result in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius did not compel them to credit the plaintiffs’ misinterpretation of the regulation the plaintiffs were challenging. 808 F.3d 1. On June 10, 2015, the Circuit Court ordered that the mandate be stayed through August 26, 2015, pending petition for writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court.

On November 6, 2015, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case in order to consider whether notifying the federal government by signing a form identifying the employer as a religious nonprofit that objects to the contraceptive services mandate (so that the government can work with the insurer or benefits provider to ensure employees have contraceptive coverage) violates RFRA, or constitutes the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling government interest. This case was consolidated with six other cases dealing with this issue. Together, the cases are known as Zubik v. Burwell [II].

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.

Back in the Circuit Court, the parties submitted a series of status reports indicating they had entered into settlement negotiations with the new Trump administration. On Oct. 16, 2017, the parties filed a joint motion to voluntarily dismiss the appeal. The case appears to be settled, though any settlement agreement is not currently publicly available. The circuit court dismissed the case on Nov. 6, 2017.

The case is now closed.

Wyatt Fore - 03/29/2013
Mallory Jones - 04/24/2014
Kate Craddock - 06/12/2016
Virginia Weeks - 12/03/2017


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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
Defendant-type
Hospital/Health Department
Jurisdiction-wide
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.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
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 Archbishop of Washington DC and associated Catholic organizations.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Unknown
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Unknown
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing FA-PA-0005 : Geneva College v. Sebelius (W.D. Pa.)
FA-DC-0018 : Priests for Life 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.)
FA-PA-0010 : Zubik v. Sebelius [II] (W.D. Pa.)
Docket(s)
1:12-cv-00815-ABJ (D.D.C.)
FA-DC-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/31/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
FA-DC-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/21/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amici Curiae Brief [for 79 Members of Congress] [ECF# 22]
FA-DC-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/28/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [dismissing the case for lack of ripeness] [ECF# 40] (920 F.Supp.2d 8) (D.D.C.)
FA-DC-0001-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/25/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 43] (2013 WL 3357814)
FA-DC-0001-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/21/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 44]
FA-DC-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/31/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 48] (19 F.Supp.3d 48) (D.D.C.)
FA-DC-0001-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/20/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 52] (D.D.C.)
FA-DC-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/23/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 1476407]
FA-DC-0001-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/23/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 1522271] (772 F.3d 229)
FA-DC-0001-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/08/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 1553491] (808 F.3d 1)
FA-DC-0001-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/20/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 1556699]
FA-DC-0001-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/10/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Supreme Court Order Granting Certiorari (136 S.Ct. 444)
FA-DC-0001-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 11/06/2015
Source: Supreme Court website
Opinion (136 S.Ct. 1557)
FA-DC-0001-0013.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/16/2016
Source: Supreme Court website
Judges Brown, Janice Rogers (D.C. Circuit)
FA-DC-0001-0011
Jackson, Amy Berman (D.D.C.)
FA-DC-0001-0003 | FA-DC-0001-0007 | FA-DC-0001-0008 | FA-DC-0001-9000
Kavanaugh, Brett M. (D.C. Circuit)
FA-DC-0001-0011
Pillard, Cornelia Thayer Livingston (D.D.C., D.C. Circuit)
FA-DC-0001-0010 | FA-DC-0001-0011
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brogan, Stephen J. (District of Columbia)
FA-DC-0001-0001
Carvin, Michael (District of Columbia)
FA-DC-0001-0001
Dreiband, Eric S. (District of Columbia)
FA-DC-0001-0001 | FA-DC-0001-9000
Francisco, Noel (District of Columbia)
FA-DC-0001-0001 | FA-DC-0001-9000
McSorley, Jeffrey Albert (District of Columbia)
FA-DC-0001-9000
Powers, Mary Ellen (District of Columbia)
FA-DC-0001-0001
Raimer, David T. (District of Columbia)
FA-DC-0001-0001
Shumaker, Gregory M. (District of Columbia)
FA-DC-0001-0001
Defendant's Lawyers Pruski, Jacek (District of Columbia)
FA-DC-0001-9000
Other Lawyers Heil, CeCe (Virginia)
FA-DC-0001-0002
Henderson, James Matthew Sr. (District of Columbia)
FA-DC-0001-0002 | FA-DC-0001-9000
Manion, Francis J (Kentucky)
FA-DC-0001-0002
Roth, Stuart J. (District of Columbia)
FA-DC-0001-0002
Sekulow, Jay Alan (District of Columbia)
FA-DC-0001-0002 | FA-DC-0001-9000
Sekulow, Jordan (District of Columbia)
FA-DC-0001-0002
Surtees, Geoffrey R. (Kentucky)
FA-DC-0001-0002
White, Edward L. III (Michigan)
FA-DC-0001-0002

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