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Case Name Geneva College v. Sebelius FA-PA-0005
Docket / Court 12-cv-00207 ( W.D. Pa. )
Additional Docket(s) 14-1374  [ 14-1374 ]
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Special Collection Contraception Insurance Mandate
Case Summary
This is one of many lawsuits brought challenging the Obama administration's 2012 Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring employers to pay for employees' contraception and abortifacients via medical insurance coverage. Many religious hospitals, charities, universities, and other ... read more >
This is one of many lawsuits brought challenging the Obama administration's 2012 Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring employers to pay for employees' contraception and abortifacients via medical insurance coverage. Many religious hospitals, charities, universities, and other enterprises owned or controlled by religious organizations or individuals who opposed contraception on doctrinal grounds, argued the mandate violated their religious beliefs. For a full list of these cases please see our collection of the Contraception Insurance Mandate cases here.

On February 21, 2012, a college organized as a not-for-profit corporation, along with its majority stakeholder, another shareholder, and two affiliated companies filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against the federal government, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the First and Fifth Amendments. Plaintiffs, represented by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund, and private counsel, sought to enjoin enforcement of provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) extending mandatory contraception coverage in employer-sponsored private health insurance coverage. Plaintiffs contended that this mandatory contraception coverage violates their sincerely held religious beliefs.

A motion by the ACLU to file an amicus brief was denied by Judge Joy Flowers Conti. On September 13, 2012, District Judge Joy Flowers Conti denied defendants' motion to stay discovery pending resolution of defendants' motion to dismiss, and on April 19, 2013, Judge Conti granted plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction.

On May 8, 2013, Judge Conti granted defendants' motion to dismiss in part and denied the motion to dismiss with respect to RFRA, the Free Exercise Clause, and the notice and comment claim under the APA. On May 22, 2013, plaintiffs moved for preliminary injunction. On June 17, 2013, defendants filed notice of appeal for the April 19 preliminary injunction.

On June 18, 2013, Judge Conti granted plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction. On August 17, 2013, defendants filed notice of appeal of the June 18 preliminary injunction. On September 12, 2013, defendants filed a motion for an indicative ruling to vacate both preliminary injunctions, which was eventually denied on October 18, 2013.

On November 12, 2013, the plaintiff filed another motion for preliminary injunction, which the District Court granted on December 23, 2013. The injunction lasted until a decision on the merits of the case.

On February 11, 2014, the defendant filed notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. (No. 14-1374). On February 11, 2015, the Third Circuit (Chief Judge McKee, Circuit Judges Rendell, and Sloviter) ruled that the accommodation to the contraceptive services mandate does not impose a substantial burden on the plaintiff’s religious expression. Next, Geneva College asked for a rehearing en banc, and the Third Circuit denied the motion on April 13, 2015. On May 6, 2015, the same panel of the Third Circuit granted a temporary stay pending response by the Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell Zubik v. Burwell. On August 11, 2015, Geneva College filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.

On November 6, 2015, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case. The Court planned 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 the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 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.

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. The case then went back to the Third Circuit for consideration on remand.

On June 20, 2016, on remand, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recalled its prior mandate in light of the Supreme Court’s opinion. On April 16, 2018, by agreement of the parties, the Third Circuit dismissed the appeal with respect to District Court’s grant of preliminary injunctive relief to Geneva College.

The case returned once again to Judge Conti of the District Court. The change in presidential administrations during the appeal regarding the District Court's earlier grant of a preliminary injunction, prompted Geneva to file a motion for permanent injunction and declaratory relief on March 20, 2018.

The Court granted the motion on July 5, 2018. 2018 WL 3348982. The Court reasoned that the government’s position conceding that enforcement of the ACA’s Mandate and accommodation process against Geneva would violate RFRA and the Government's indication that it did not intend to offer a substantive defense with respect to that matter, along with the Court’s prior orders, opinions and findings of fact and conclusions of law, led to the conclusion that Geneva made the required showing for a preliminary injunction: 1) actual success on the merits with respect to its claim under RFRA; 2) it would be irreparable injured by the denial of injunctive relief; 3) no greater harm to defendants will result by grant of the permanent injunction; and 4) the injunction is in the public interest. Id.

The Court noted that the proposed injunction and declaratory relief requested by Geneva in the March 20 motion was broader than the relief requested in the second amended complaint, and did not refer to the requirements of the mandate and accommodation that Geneva showed violated Geneva’s rights under RFRA. Consequently, the Court narrowed the injunction relief, and granted Geneva:

permanent injunctive relief against application of the mandate, and defendant's from implementing regulations against Geneva and requiring its compliance with the accommodation procedure with respect to providing, paying for, making accessible, or otherwise facilitating or causing access to coverage or payments through an insurance company or other third party for contraceptive coverage services to which Geneva College has religious objections (including those Geneva College views as abortion, abortifacients, embryo-harming pharmaceuticals, or related education and counseling).

Additionally, the court granted Geneva declaratory relief, that defendants' enforcement of the mandate, and the accommodations procedure, violated Geneva’s rights under RFRA.

Since the Court granted plaintiffs' requested relief, Geneva filed a consent motion for voluntary dismissal of its remaining claims, on July 9, 2018. The Court granted the motion on July 12, and dismissed the case without prejudice.

The parties came to a settlement regarding attorneys' fees on October 11, 2018.

The case is now closed.

Wyatt Fore - 03/18/2013
Emma Lawton - 11/25/2013
Kate Craddock - 06/12/2016
Michael Beech - 03/10/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Establishment Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
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.
Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)
Defendant(s) United States Department of Health and Human Services
United States Department of Labor
United States Department of the Treasury
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are a Christian college (organized as a not-for-profit corporation), its majority stakeholder (Wayne Hepler), another shareholder (Carrie Kolesar), and two other corporation owned by Hepler in Pennsylvania.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Declaratory Judgment
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Filing Year 2012
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing 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.)
FA-DC-0018 : Priests for Life v. Sebelius (D.D.C.)
FA-PA-0010 : Zubik v. Burwell [II] (W.D. Pa.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Docket(s)
2:12-cv-00207 (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0005-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/21/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Notice of Change of Firm and Email Addresses [ECF# 41]
FA-PA-0005-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/09/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 74] (929 F.Supp.2d 402) (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0005-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/06/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [conclusions of law and fact supporting the preliminary injunction] [ECF# 83] (2013 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 56087) (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0005-0006.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/19/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [granting preliminary injunction] [ECF# 84] (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0005-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/19/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [reconsideration granting and denying in part motion to dismiss] [ECF# 86] (929 F.Supp.2d 402) (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0005-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/08/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 92] (960 F.Supp.2d 588) (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0005-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/18/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint [ECF# 98]
FA-PA-0005-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/18/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum [denying motion for indicative ruling] [ECF# 104] (2013 WL 5704948) (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0005-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 10/18/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Geneva College's Second Motion fir Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 105]
FA-PA-0005-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/12/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Law in Support of Geneva College's Second Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 106]
FA-PA-0005-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/12/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law [ECF# 114] (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0005-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/23/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 115] (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0005-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/23/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 003111874118 ] (778 F.3d 422)
FA-PA-0005-0016.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/11/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 134]
FA-PA-0005-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/06/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Supreme Court Order Granting Certiorari (136 S.Ct. 444)
FA-PA-0005-0015.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 11/06/2015
Source: Supreme Court website
Opinion (136 S.Ct. 1557)
FA-PA-0005-0018.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/16/2016
Order [ECF# 147] (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0005-0019.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/20/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion (2018 WL 3348982) (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0005-0021.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/05/2018
Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 152] (2018 WL 3348982) (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0005-0022.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/05/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Plaintiffs' Consent Motion for Voluntary Dismissal of Plaintiffs' Remaining Claims [ECF# 157] (W.D. Pa.)
FA-PA-0005-0020.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/12/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Conti, Joy Flowers (W.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-0004 | FA-PA-0005-0005 | FA-PA-0005-0006 | FA-PA-0005-0007 | FA-PA-0005-0008 | FA-PA-0005-0009 | FA-PA-0005-0012 | FA-PA-0005-0013 | FA-PA-0005-0021 | FA-PA-0005-0022 | FA-PA-0005-9001
Rendell, Marjorie O. (E.D. Pa., Third Circuit) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-0016 | FA-PA-0005-0017
Plaintiff's Lawyers Aden, Steven H. (Virginia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-0001 | FA-PA-0005-0003 | FA-PA-0005-0010 | FA-PA-0005-0011 | FA-PA-0005-9001
Baylor, Gregory S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-0001 | FA-PA-0005-0003 | FA-PA-0005-0010 | FA-PA-0005-0011 | FA-PA-0005-9001
Bowman, Matthew S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-0001 | FA-PA-0005-0003 | FA-PA-0005-0010 | FA-PA-0005-0011 | FA-PA-0005-9001
Mongillo, David J. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-0003 | FA-PA-0005-0010 | FA-PA-0005-0011 | FA-PA-0005-9001
Stanley, Erik William (Kansas) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-0001 | FA-PA-0005-0003 | FA-PA-0005-0010 | FA-PA-0005-0011 | FA-PA-0005-9001
Theriot, Kevin H. (Kansas) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-0001 | FA-PA-0005-0003 | FA-PA-0005-0010 | FA-PA-0005-0011 | FA-PA-0005-9001
Tupi, Bradley S. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-0003 | FA-PA-0005-0010 | FA-PA-0005-0011 | FA-PA-0005-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Comber, Michael A. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-9001
Grogg, Adam Anderson (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-9001
Humphreys, Bradley Philip (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-9001
Schollaert, Albert W. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-9001
Womack, Eric R. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-9001
Other Lawyers Amiri, Brigitte A. (New York) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-9001
Cortman, David A. (Georgia) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-0001 | FA-PA-0005-0003 | FA-PA-0005-0010 | FA-PA-0005-0011 | FA-PA-0005-9001
Walczak, Witold J. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
FA-PA-0005-9001

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