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Case Name Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend v. Burwell FA-IN-0002
Docket / Court 1:12-cv-00159 ( N.D. Ind. )
State/Territory Indiana
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Special Collection Contraception Insurance Mandate
Case Summary
This case was one of 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 ... read more >
This case was one of 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 the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth-South Bend and affiliated Catholic organizations (Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Inc.; Saint Anne Home & Retirement Community of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend; Franciscan Alliance, Inc.; Specialty Physicians of Illinois, LLC; University of Saint Francis; and Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.) on May 21, 2012 in the Northern District of Missouri against the federal government under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the First Amendment. The plaintiffs 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 the contraception coverage mandate violated their sincerely held religious beliefs.

On Oct. 2, 2012, the plaintiffs moved to consolidate this case with Tonn and Blank Construction, LLC v. Sebelius, a case with similar legal issues and the same defendants. Tonn and Blank Construction, LLC, the plaintiff, was a Catholic, wholly-owned subsidiary of one of the plaintiffs in this action.

On Oct. 19, 2012, the case was reassigned from Judge William C. Lee to Judge Jon E. DeGuilio for the purpose of judicial efficiency, as Judge DeGuilio was already assigned to Tonn and Blank.

On Apr. 1, 2013, the court denied the plaintiffs' motion for consolidation, finding that the cases involve different outcome-determinative facts which will require a distinct legal analysis in each case, most notably the fact that the plaintiff in the Tonn and Blank case was a for-profit entity that was not eligible for the temporary safe harbor provision.

Meanwhile, on March 14, 2013, Judge Jon A. DeGuilio had stayed the case pending (1) the finalization of contraceptive coverage rules from the Department of Health and Human Services; and (2) the appeal of University of Notre Dame v. Sebelius, a case involving the same issues pending before the Seventh Circuit. The order required the parties to submit a joint report stating their intentions with respect to the lawsuit and an agreed-upon schedule by July 26, 2013, which they did. The court considered the joint notice, and lifted the stay on July 31, 2013.

On Sept. 6, 2013, the plaintiffs amended their complaint to challenge the regulation as amended. They argued that the amended definition of "religious employer" continued to require them to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by facilitating access to contraception services. This is because the amended law's accommodations required plaintiffs to self-certify to their insurance provider, setting forth their religious objections, which in turn triggers an obligation on the part of the insurance provider to procure the services that the plaintiffs found objectionable. The plaintiffs were, thus, the but-for cause of providing contraception coverage. The plaintiffs asked the court to grant a preliminary and permanent injunction against enforcement of the relevant provisions of the ACA.

On Dec. 27, 2013, District Judge Jon E. Deguilio granted the Church's motion for a preliminary injunction. 2013 WL 6843012 at *1. The court recognized that while the Diocese itself was exempt from the contraception mandate as a religious employer, the remaining affiliated organizations were subject to the self-certification accommodation as put forth in the amended regulation. 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 facilitate and serve as the conduit through which objectionable contraceptive products and services are ultimately provided to their employees. The court also found that the application of the two regulations-the exemption and the accommodation-had the ultimate effect of dividing the Catholic Church into two separate entities which has created a substantial burden on the Diocese as well. The court found that the government did not show that the contraception mandate was the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest, noting that were other ways to promote public health and gender equality that were not burdensome on religious liberty.

On Feb. 24, 2014, the defendants filed an interlocutory appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit challenging the preliminary injunction. The interlocutory appeal was assigned USCA Case No. 14-1431.

On Mar. 3, 2014, the Seventh Circuit, on its own motion, ordered that the appeal be consolidated with Grace Schools v. Sebelius for purposes of briefing and disposition. Grace Schools v. Sebelius had the same legal issues as the underlying case, and the plaintiffs were underlying Grace Schools and Biola University, Inc., both Catholic non-profit organizations.

On Aug. 28, 2014, the name of the case changed from Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend v. Sebelius. Sylvia Burwell was automatically substituted as petitioner in the pending Seventh Circuit appeal when she was approved by the U.S. Senate as the Secretary of Health and Human Services after being nominated by President Barack Obama to replace Kathleen Sebelius following Sebelius' resignation on Apr. 10, 2014.

The appeal was argued on Dec. 3, 2014, before Circuit Judges Manion, Rovner, and Hamilton, for the Seventh Circuit.

At the district court level, on Jan. 15, 2015, Magistrate Judge Roger B. Cosbey was added to the case, replacing Magistrate Judge Susan L. Collins.

On May 21, 2015, the parties were ordered to file position statements explaining the consequences of the Seventh Circuit's opinion in University of Notre Dame v. Sebelius, in which the court had issued its decision two days earlier. The parties obliged.

On Sept. 4, 2015, the Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded. The court concluded that the plaintiffs had been forced to take actions that violated their sincerely held beliefs, but nonetheless held that the ACA's regulations did not impose a substantial burden under RFRA. The court maintained the injunction for a 60-day period in order to allow the district court adequate time to address additional arguments made by the parties but not addressed prior to the appeal.

On Oct. 19, 2015, the plaintiffs filed a petition for rehearing en banc. They argued that the panel decision conflicted with Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, 134 S.Ct. 2751 (2014), on the question of what constitutes a "substantial burden" on religious exercise under RFRA.

The court denied the plaintiffs' petition on Nov. 5, 2015.

On Nov. 11, 2015, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a stay of mandate pending the petition for writ of certiorari, and the motion was granted the next day.

On May 16, 2016, the Supreme Court granted the petition for writ of certiorari. On June 17, 2016, it vacated the Seventh Circuit's judgment, and remanded the case to the Seventh Circuit in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Zubik v. Burwell, 136 S.Ct. 1557 (2016). In Zubik, the Supreme Court determined through supplemental briefing that insurance companies could provide contraceptive coverage to employees of organizations that objected to such coverage on religious grounds without the organizations needing to provide notification. The Court reached no decision on the merits of the case, but vacated the case for further consideration by the lower courts to determine how to proceed in a manner that would grant employees full contraceptive coverage while also respecting the organizations' religious exercise.

Between July 21, 2016 and Sept. 13, 2017, the parties filed numerous joint status reports.

Meanwhile, on Feb. 2, 2017, Burwell had been substituted by Thomas E. Price, so the name of the case in the Seventh Circuit was changed to Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend v. Price. On May 4, 2017, Edward C. Hugler and Thomas E. Perez, the Acting Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Labor, respectively, were substituted by R. Alexander Acosta, the new Secretary of Labor, after he was sworn into office.

On Oct. 6, 2017, the defendants moved for a voluntary dismissal of the appeal, and Circuit Judges Manion, Rovner, and Hamilton, for the Seventh Circuit dismissed the consolidated appeals.

On Oct. 17, 2017, the plaintiffs filed their response, and we believe that they consented to the motion.

On Oct. 19, 2017, the Seventh Circuit issued a mandate dismissing the appeal.

On Oct. 23, 2017, the plaintiffs jointly stipulated to dismiss the case, and the case was dismissed the next day.

Christopher Schad - 05/20/2012
Wyatt Fore - 03/29/2013
Richard Jolly - 04/20/2014
Elizabeth Greiter - 02/10/2018

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Establishment Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Hospital/Health Department
Religion discrimination
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
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) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Labor
U.S. Department of Treasury
Plaintiff Description The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort-Wayne South Bend and other Catholic organizations.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Unknown
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Order Duration 2013 - n/a
Filing Year 2012
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing FA-IN-0003 : Grace Schools v. Sebelius (N.D. Ind.)
FA-PA-0010 : Zubik v. Burwell [II] (W.D. Pa.)
FA-IN-0005 : University of Notre Dame v. Sebelius (N.D. Ind.)
1:12-cv-00159-WCL-RBC (N.D. Ind.)
FA-IN-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/24/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
FA-IN-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/21/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Staying Case and Ordering a Joint Report] [ECF# 61] (N.D. Ind.)
FA-IN-0002-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/14/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Declining Consolidation of Cases] [ECF# 62] (N.D. Ind.)
FA-IN-0002-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/01/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Denying Defendants' Motion to Dismiss with Leave to Re-File] [ECF# 70] (N.D. Ind.)
FA-IN-0002-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/31/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial [ECF# 73]
FA-IN-0002-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/06/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [Granting Preliminary Injunction] [ECF# 122] (2013 WL 6843012) (N.D. Ind.)
FA-IN-0002-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 12/27/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Stipulation of Dismissal [ECF# 136]
FA-IN-0002-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/23/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Cosbey, Roger B. (N.D. Ind.) [Magistrate]
DeGuilio, Jon Ernest (N.D. Ind.)
FA-IN-0002-0004 | FA-IN-0002-0005 | FA-IN-0002-0006 | FA-IN-0002-0008 | FA-IN-0002-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers DeJulius, Leon F. Jr. (Pennsylvania)
FA-IN-0002-0007 | FA-IN-0002-0009 | FA-IN-0002-9000
Doelling, Robert E. (Indiana)
FA-IN-0002-0007 | FA-IN-0002-0009 | FA-IN-0002-9000
Downes, W. Patrick (Indiana)
FA-IN-0002-0007 | FA-IN-0002-0009 | FA-IN-0002-9000
Hall, Scott (Indiana)
FA-IN-0002-0007 | FA-IN-0002-0009 | FA-IN-0002-9000
Hogan, Carol A. (Illinois)
FA-IN-0002-0001 | FA-IN-0002-0007 | FA-IN-0002-9000
Hopkins, William T. Jr. (Indiana)
FA-IN-0002-0007 | FA-IN-0002-9000
Kairis, Matthew A (Ohio)
FA-IN-0002-0001 | FA-IN-0002-0007 | FA-IN-0002-0009 | FA-IN-0002-9000
Kilmartin, Alison J. (Pennsylvania)
FA-IN-0002-0001 | FA-IN-0002-0007 | FA-IN-0002-9000
Mulholland, Shane C. (Indiana)
FA-IN-0002-0009 | FA-IN-0002-9000
Murphy, Eric E (Ohio)
FA-IN-0002-0001 | FA-IN-0002-9000
Murray, Brian Joseph (Illinois)
FA-IN-0002-0001 | FA-IN-0002-0007 | FA-IN-0002-9000
Palmisciano, Melissa D (Ohio)
Ranjan, Brandy H (Ohio)
FA-IN-0002-0001 | FA-IN-0002-0007 | FA-IN-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Berwick, Benjamin Leon (District of Columbia)
Davis, Ethan P. (District of Columbia)
Johnson, Clifford D. (Indiana)
McElvain, Joel (District of Columbia)
Other Lawyers Amiri, Brigitte A. (New York)
Lee, Jennifer (New York)
Mach, Daniel (District of Columbia)
White, Edward L. III (Michigan)

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