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Case Name Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, Inc. v. Sebelius FA-MS-0001
Docket / Court 1:12-cv-00158 ( S.D. Miss. )
State/Territory Mississippi
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Special Collection Contraception Insurance Mandate
Case Summary
This is one of twelve cases filed on May 21, 2012 in federal district courts across the country by Catholic organizations challenging the contraception mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Plaintiffs, a non-profit corporation of Catholic parishes, schools, and charities, ... read more >
This is one of twelve cases filed on May 21, 2012 in federal district courts across the country by Catholic organizations challenging the contraception mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Plaintiffs, a non-profit corporation of Catholic parishes, schools, and charities, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi against the Federal Government under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court to issue a permanent injunction prohibiting enforcement of provisions of the ACA extending universal contraception coverage to employer-sponsored private health insurance coverage. Specifically, plaintiffs claim that providing, paying for, or facilitating access to such services is inconsistent with its religious beliefs and contend that compliance with the contraception requirement is a substantial burden on their religious exercise.

On December 20, 2012, the court (Judge Halil Suleyman Ozerden) granted the Federal Government's motion to dismiss for lack of ripeness. The court noted that because the contraception mandate was in the process of being amended, as noted by the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM), in its present form the mandate represent only a tentative agency position and was therefore not ripe for review. Plaintiffs' case was dismissed without prejudice. 2012 WL 6831407.

On January 8, 2013, plaintiffs moved to alter the courts' judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) on the basis that failure to do so would result in manifest injustice. They asked the court to hold the case in abeyance pending the ANPRM amendments or require the Federal Government to file regular status reports on the progress of these amendments. On February 15, 2013, the court (Judge Halil Suleyman Ozerden) denied plaintiff's motion, noting that plaintiffs had not requested these alternatives before final judgment and holding that dismissal without prejudice did not create a manifest injustice on them. 2013 WL 690990.

The plaintiffs renewed their case on May 27, 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. Docket No. 1:14-cv-00146-LG-JCG. The complaint challenged the ACA as finalized. Plaintiffs alleged that, although under the amended ACA the Diocese itself likely fell within the "religious employer" exception, affiliated Catholic entities were only considered "eligible organizations" qualifying for an accommodation. This accommodation would require plaintiffs to provide self-certification to their insurance provider setting forth their religious objections to the ACA, in turn triggering an obligation on the part of the insurance provider to procure the services plaintiffs find objectionable. According to the plaintiffs, this series of events made them the but-for cause of providing contraception coverage in violation of their sincerely held beliefs. Plaintiffs continued to ask the court to grant a permanent injunction against enforcement of the relevant provisions of the ACA.

On November 7, 2014, the parties moved to stay proceedings in this case pending the Fifth Circuit's decision in consolidated appeals--East Texas Baptist University v. Burwell, No. 14-20112, University of Dallas v. Burwell, No. 14-10241, Catholic Diocese of Beaumont v. Burwell, No. 14-40212, and Catholic Charities, Diocese of Fort Worth v. Burwell, No. 14-10661--raising substantially similar legal issues to those in this case. The court granted the motion to stay on November 24, 2014. On June 22, 2015, the Fifth Circuit (Judges Jerry E. Smith, Thomas M. Reavley, and James E. Graves) held that the ACA provisions challenged in the consolidated appeals did not violate the plaintiffs' rights under RFRA. 793 F. 3d 449.

On November 6, 2015, the Supreme Court granted certiorari for the Fifth Circuit consolidated appeals, consolidating the case with similar cases dealing with the issue in other circuit courts. Together, the cases are known as Zubik v. Burwell [II].

This case was argued in the Supreme Court on March 23, 2016. On March 29, 2016, in an unusual move, the 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 the case.

The parties requested another stay pending the proceedings in the Fifth Circuit on the remand of the consolidated appeals, and on March 8, 2017, the court administratively closed the case pending disposition of the Fifth Circuit proceedings.

Following a change in administration, and an executive order directing a change in regulations to allow for conscience-based exceptions to the ACA's contraceptive-care mandate, and the parties in this case filed a joint stipulation of dismissal on October 23, 2017.

Denise Heberle - 05/22/2012
Richard Jolly - 11/07/2014
Sarah McDonald - 08/12/2018


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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 denied
Defendant-type
Hospital/Health Department
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
General
Contraception
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Bivens
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 Catholic dioceses of Biloxi and Jackson, Mississippi, and schools and nonprofits within them
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 2012
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
1:12−cv−00158 (S.D. Miss.)
FA-MS-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/15/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
1:14-cv-00146 (S.D. Miss.)
FA-MS-0001-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/23/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
FA-MS-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/21/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Oral Argument [28], Granting Defendants' to Dismiss [15], and Dismissing Case without Prejudice [ECF# 62] (2012 WL 6831407) (S.D. Miss.)
FA-MS-0001-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 12/20/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Final Judgment [ECF# 63] (S.D. Miss.)
FA-MS-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/20/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Plaintiffs' Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment [ECF# 74] (2013 WL 690990) (S.D. Miss.)
FA-MS-0001-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/15/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Complaint [Renewed] [ECF# 1]
FA-MS-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Guirola, Louis Jr. (W.D. Tex., S.D. Miss.)
FA-MS-0001-9001
Ozerden, Halil Suleyman (S.D. Miss.)
FA-MS-0001-0002 | FA-MS-0001-0003 | FA-MS-0001-0004 | FA-MS-0001-9000
Walker, Robert H. (S.D. Miss.) [Magistrate]
FA-MS-0001-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Burnette, Jason T. (Georgia)
FA-MS-0001-9000
Carmody, Stephen J. (Mississippi)
FA-MS-0001-0001 | FA-MS-0001-0005 | FA-MS-0001-9000 | FA-MS-0001-9001
Lea, Brian C. (Georgia)
FA-MS-0001-9001
Metcalf, Janine Cone (Georgia)
FA-MS-0001-9000 | FA-MS-0001-9001
Monde, David M. (Georgia)
FA-MS-0001-9000
Necaise, Kevin J. (Mississippi)
FA-MS-0001-0001 | FA-MS-0001-0005 | FA-MS-0001-9000 | FA-MS-0001-9001
Smith, E. Kendrick (Georgia)
FA-MS-0001-9000 | FA-MS-0001-9001
Thornhill, Rebecca M. (Georgia)
FA-MS-0001-9000
Williams, James R. (Georgia)
FA-MS-0001-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Bennett, Michelle Renee (District of Columbia)
FA-MS-0001-9001
Graben, Stephen R. (Mississippi)
FA-MS-0001-9000
Grogg, Adam Anderson (District of Columbia)
FA-MS-0001-9001
Pruski, Jacek (District of Columbia)
FA-MS-0001-9000
Other Lawyers Lamar, John Thomas Jr (Mississippi)
FA-MS-0001-9000
White, Edward L. III (Michigan)
FA-MS-0001-9000

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