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Case Name Wieland v. Sebelius FA-MO-0007
Docket / Court 4:13-cv-01577 ( E.D. Mo. )
Additional Docket(s) 13-3528  [ 13-3528 ]  Federal Court of Appeals
16-3831  [ 16-3831 ]  Federal Court of Appeals
State/Territory Missouri
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Special Collection Contraception Insurance Mandate
Case Summary
On August 14, 2013, private citizens filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Missouri against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the First Amendment. The plaintiff, represented by the public interest ... read more >
On August 14, 2013, private citizens filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Missouri against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the First Amendment. The plaintiff, represented by the public interest firm Thomas More Society, asked the court for an exception to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate requiring employers to provide health insurance coverage of contraception. Due to the ACA mandate, the plaintiffs' employer, the State of Missouri, only offered a health insurance plan that includes contraception coverage. The plaintiffs claimed paying for this health insurance plan violated their Catholic religious beliefs and their right to family integrity.

On September 10, 2013, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the plaintiffs do not have claim upon which relief can be granted. The defendants' motion argued that the ACA contraception mandate applies only to employers, not private individuals. Furthermore, defendants argued that if the government began allowing individual exceptions to certain aspects of insurance policies the group insurance model would fall apart.

On October 16, 2013, the court (Judge Jean C. Hamilton) granted defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of standing. The court found that because plaintiffs' alleged injuries were linked with the independent discretionary actions of the State and his health insurance provider, neither of which were parties to the action, plaintiffs alleged only indirect causation between the contraception mandate and their alleged injuries. Moreover, plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that an injunction of the government's' policy would alter the behavior of these third parties. These third parties would retain discretion not to offer plaintiff a health plan that excludes contraception and abortion. 978 F. Supp. 2d 1008.

Plaintiffs appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and the case was heard before a panel of three judges: Judge Roger Wollman, Judge James Loken, and Judge Diana Murphy. On July 20, 2015, the Court of Appeals reversed. In an opinion by Judge Wollman, the court pointed out that, prior to the enactment of the contraception mandate, the insurance provider and the state had been willing to offer the plaintiffs a contraceptive-free healthcare plan. It concluded that this was persuasive evidence that the insurance provider might well alter its policy if the plaintiffs succeeded on the merits of their claim, and therefore that the injury was not too speculative for adjudication. The case was remanded to the district court for decision on the merits. 793 F. 3d 949.

The defendants filed another motion to dismiss. On January 8, 2016, the court granted the motion in part and denied it in part: the plaintiffs’ constitutional and APA claims were dismissed with prejudice, but the RFRA claim remained at issue because the plaintiffs alleged that the mandate imposed a substantial burden on their exercise of religion. 2016 WL 98170.

On May 24, 2016, the defendants moved for summary judgment. Three weeks later, the plaintiffs did so as well. On July 21, 2016, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and denied the defendants’. Judge Hamilton entered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, enjoining the defendants from requiring the plaintiffs’ health insurance issuer to provide them with health insurance that includes contraceptive coverage. The order applied only to health plans provided to the plaintiffs.196 F. Supp. 3d 1010.

On August 18, 2016, the plaintiffs moved to recover attorneys’ fees, but agreed to stay briefing on this motion on September 1 after the government indicated that it would likely appeal the district court's decision. The government duly filed its notice of appeal with the Eighth Circuit on September 16.

On November 2, 2016, however, the government moved to hold the appeal in abeyance pending the Eighth Circuit's decision in a closely related case, Sharpe Holdings, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Servs.. Sharpe was one of several RFRA-based challenges to the contraceptive-coverage mandate consolidated and remanded by the U.S. Supreme Court in order to allow the parties to reach an acceptable compromise. Zubik v. Burwell, 136 S.Ct. 1557 (2016). In the wake of that decision, on July 21, 2016, HHS sent out a Request for Information (RFI) to determine "whether modifications to the existing accommodation procedure could resolve the objections asserted by the plaintiffs in the pending RFRA cases while still ensuring that the affected women seamlessly receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage." Since the Eighth Circuit had already decided to withhold further action in Sharpe until after the government filed a status report on the RFI on November 30, it likewise agreed on November 23 to abey proceedings in this case.

On February 13, 2017, the date when the abeyance was set to expire, the government wrote to the Eighth Circuit indicating that both parties agreed to extend the abeyance by an additional sixty days. The government explained that the change in presidential administrations that year would likely bear significantly on the issues of this case, with the possibility of the dispute being mooted entirely. Following President Trump's May 4 executive order directing a change in regulations to allow for conscience-based exceptions to the ACA's contraceptive-care mandate, the parties agreed to have the case dismissed on November 13, 2017. The Eighth Circuit obliged three days later, and on December 13, the plaintiffs withdrew their district court motion for attorney's fees.

The case is now closed.

Mallory Jones - 10/16/2013
Richard Jolly - 04/05/2014
- 07/21/2015
Rebecca Strauss - 07/10/2018
Alexander Walling - 08/21/2018

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Free Exercise Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Preliminary relief denied
Hospital/Health Department
Religion discrimination
Reasonable Accommodations
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
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 the Treasury
Plaintiff Description Private citizens seeking exemption from the ACA's mandate requiring contraception coverage from employers providing health insurance.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Voluntary Dismissal
Filed 08/14/2013
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
4:13-cv-01577-JCH (E.D. Mo.)
FA-MO-0007-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/18/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
FA-MO-0007-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/14/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 22]
FA-MO-0007-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/10/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant's Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 22-1]
FA-MO-0007-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/10/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 37] (978 F.Supp.2d 1008) (E.D. Mo.)
FA-MO-0007-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/16/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
[Opinion] [Ct. of App. ECF# 4296623] (793 F.3d 949)
FA-MO-0007-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Date: 07/20/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Opinion [ECF# 66] (2016 WL 98170) (E.D. Mo.)
FA-MO-0007-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 01/08/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 87] (196 F.Supp.3d 1010) (E.D. Mo.)
FA-MO-0007-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/21/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Hamilton, Jean Constance (E.D. Mo.) show/hide docs
FA-MO-0007-0004 | FA-MO-0007-0006 | FA-MO-0007-0007 | FA-MO-0007-9000
Wollman, Roger Leland (Eighth Circuit) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Belz, Timothy (Missouri) show/hide docs
FA-MO-0007-0001 | FA-MO-0007-9000
Breen, Peter C. (Illinois) show/hide docs
FA-MO-0007-0001 | FA-MO-0007-9000
Brejcha, Thomas (Illinois) show/hide docs
White, Kevin E (Illinois) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Bennett, Michelle Renee (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-MO-0007-0002 | FA-MO-0007-0003 | FA-MO-0007-9000
Callahan, Richard G. (Missouri) show/hide docs
FA-MO-0007-0002 | FA-MO-0007-0003
Delery, Stuart F. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-MO-0007-0002 | FA-MO-0007-0003
Lieber, Sheila M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-MO-0007-0002 | FA-MO-0007-0003
Ricketts, Jennifer (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-MO-0007-0002 | FA-MO-0007-0003

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