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Case Name Catholic Benefits Association v. Sebelius FA-OK-0006
Docket / Court 5:14-cv-00685-R ( W.D. Okla. )
State/Territory Oklahoma
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Special Collection Contraception Insurance Mandate
Case Summary
On July 1, 2014, the Catholic Benefits Association and the Catholic Insurance Company filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. The Catholic Benefits Association is an association of Catholic nonprofits and closely held for-profit employers that provide ... read more >
On July 1, 2014, the Catholic Benefits Association and the Catholic Insurance Company filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. The Catholic Benefits Association is an association of Catholic nonprofits and closely held for-profit employers that provide health benefits to their employees, and the Catholic Insurance Company, Inc. sells stop-loss insurance to some of these employers who self-fund their insurance plans. The plaintiffs alleged that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and related agencies' enforcement of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) contraceptive services mandate ('mandate') violated the plaintiffs' rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and violated the Administrative Procedures Act. Represented by private counsel, the plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that notifying HHS of their religious objection to contraception started a chain of events that ended with their employees receiving contraceptive services. The plaintiffs claimed this violates their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Free Exercise, Establishment, and Free Speech clauses of the First Amendment, and the Administrative Procedures Act.

The same plaintiffs had filed an earlier suit, The Catholic Benefits Ass'n v. Sebelius, No. 5:14-cv-00240-R (W.D. Okla. June 4, 2014), which had resulted in an injunction for their nonprofit and closely held for-profit member employers at the time. They filed an additional motion to add employers who joined the association following that date, but it was denied. The current suit is to add those members to the injunction. The court in the preceding case also ruled that the Catholic Insurance Company did not have standing to sue in its own right.

On December 29, 2014, the court granted the Catholic Benefits Association a preliminary injunction against federal enforcement of the mandate for their current members who were nonprofit religious employers and for current members who were non-exempt closely held for-profit employers. 81 F.Supp.3d. 1269 (W.D. Oka. 2014). The court did not provide preliminary injunctive relief for future members of the association, for employers that met the ACA definition of religious employer and are exempt from mandate, or for the Catholic Insurance Company.

In early 2015, both parties cross appealed the court's decision to grant in part and deny in part the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. On March 17, 2015, however, the Tenth Circuit granted the government's unopposed motion to hold this case and related appeals in abeyance pending resolution of Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell (FA-CO-0006), Southern Nazarene University v. Burwell (FA-OK-0005), and Reaching Souls International v. Burwell (FA-OK-0002).

On October 23, 2017, the Tenth Circuit dismissed both appeals pursuant to the plaintiffs' motion for voluntary dismissal. The plaintiffs then filed a motion for a permanent injunction and declaratory judgment on November 1, 2017. They argued that although there was a circuit split over whether the accommodation under the mandate substantially burdened religious exercise, the government changed its position once the issue was before the Supreme Court in 2016. Zubik v. Burwell (FA-PA-0010). In Interim Final Rules issued in October 2017, the government admitted that the accommodation did substantially burden religious exercise and was illegal under RFRA.

On March 7, 2018, the Court granted the plaintiffs' motion for a permanent injunction. The Court permanently enjoined the government from enforcing the mandate against CBA members, their health plans, their health insurance issuers, or third-party administrators in connection with their health plans, to the extent that it required CBA members to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for religiously-objectionable medical care. The Court also declared that the mandate violated RFRA. In August, 2018, the Court awarded the plaintiffs $699,725.95 in attorneys' fees and $18,881.41 in expenses not recoverable under 28 U.S.C. § 1920. The case is now closed.

Kate Craddock - 10/11/2015
Eva Richardson - 01/02/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Establishment Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Preliminary relief denied
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Contraception
Religious programs / policies
Plaintiff Type
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) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Labor
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are an association of Catholic nonprofit and closely-held for-profit employers that provide health benefits to their employees, and a Catholic based insurance company which sells stop-loss insurance to some of these employers which self-fund their insurance plans.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Filing Year 2014
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing No
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)
5:14-cv-00685-R (W.D. Okla.)
FA-OK-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/15/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Verified Complaint [ECF# 1]
FA-OK-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/01/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Verified Complaint [ECF# 32]
FA-OK-0006-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/03/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injuction [ECF# 40] (81 F.Supp.3d 1269) (W.D. Okla.)
FA-OK-0006-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/29/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 98] (W.D. Okla.)
FA-OK-0006-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/15/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Russell, David Lynn (E.D. Okla., N.D. Okla., W.D. Okla.) show/hide docs
FA-OK-0006-0003 | FA-OK-0006-0005 | FA-OK-0006-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ables, J Angela (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
FA-OK-0006-0001 | FA-OK-0006-0002 | FA-OK-0006-9000
Blassingame, Johnny R Jr. (Oklahoma) show/hide docs
FA-OK-0006-0001 | FA-OK-0006-0002 | FA-OK-0006-9000
Kniffin, Eric N (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-OK-0006-0001 | FA-OK-0006-0002 | FA-OK-0006-9000
Nussbaum, L. Martin (Colorado) show/hide docs
FA-OK-0006-0001 | FA-OK-0006-0002 | FA-OK-0006-9000
Speir, Ian Seth (Colorado) show/hide docs
FA-OK-0006-0002 | FA-OK-0006-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bennett, Michelle Renee (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-OK-0006-9000
Grogg, Adam Anderson (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-OK-0006-9000
Humphreys, Bradley Philip (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
FA-OK-0006-9000

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