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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name ACLU of Northern California v. Burwell IM-CA-0080
Docket / Court 3:16-cv-03539 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Public Accomm./Contracting
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
ACLU of Northern California
ACLU of Southern California
Case Summary
On June 24, 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The ACLU sued the Secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) alleging a violation of its First Amendment ... read more >
On June 24, 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The ACLU sued the Secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) alleging a violation of its First Amendment rights. Specifically, the ACLU argued that HHS violated the constitutional restriction on state establishment of religion by allowing the use of taxpayer funds, including the individual taxes paid by ACLU members, to impose religiously based restrictions on noncitizens.

The ACLU sought a declaration and permanent injunction, requesting that the court order HHS to ensure that grants by its component agency, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) be implemented without religious restrictions.

The ACLU alleged that HHS, in order to achieve its statutory obligation under the Homeland Security Act and the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act to ensure the best interests of unaccompanied immigrant minors, authorizes ORR to administer federally-funded grants to private organizations that provide care and custody for these minors. Some of these grant recipients are religious organizations, most prominently the U.S. Conference of Conference Bishops (USCCB), which allocates its grant money to many sub-grantee Catholic organizations throughout the country. The USCCB's sub-grantees, as well as other religious organizations running custody programs, object to contraception and abortion on religious grounds. They therefore refuse to facilitate minors' access to reproductive healthcare.

The ACLU further argued that, under both statutory law and because of their unique situation of women who end up in immigration custody, many being the survivors of sexual assault, the women are entitled to reproductive healthcare. If they try to access such services while in custody under USCCB's sub-grantees, however, the religious organizations deny them access and sometimes transfer them to other secular custody programs, even if the transfers are not in their best interest.

These restrictions, the ACLU alleged, violate not only the First Amendment (a violation which directly injures taxpayers) but also the Flores v. Reno agreement, and an ORR regulation implementing the Prison Rape Elimination Act and the Violence Against Women Act. The agreement and regulation mandate that the defendant ensures that minor victims of sexual assault in immigration custody can access family planning services, post-assault care, and abortions.

The parties proceeded with discovery. On Sept. 26, 2016, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, citing a lack of standing. The assigned Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler denied this motion on Nov. 29, 2016, finding the ACLU had standing as a taxpayer. 2016 WL 6962871 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 29, 2016).

On Dec. 15, 2016, the USCCB sought to intervene as a defendant, which the court granted on Feb. 7, 2017. 2017 WL 492833 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 7, 2017). On Feb. 1, 2017, the ACLU filed an amended complaint. In addition to the earlier allegations, the ACLU also asserted that defendants refused to help trafficking victims obtain reproductive health services and apply for visas for same-sex spouses.

On Mar. 9, 2017, defendants moved to transfer the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Defendants argued that the case had no meaningful tie to the Northern District of California, whereas the parties (including ACLU National), witnesses, and operative facts were located in the District of Columbia. The ACLU responded on Mar. 23, 2017, arguing that the case should stay in the Northern District of California where the ACLU of Northern California and its members were located, where unconstitutional activity had partly taken place, and where the court was already familiar with the matter.

Magistrate Judge Beeler held an Apr. 27, 2017 hearing and issued an order the next day, denying defendants' motion to transfer the case. Magistrate Judge Beeler held that defendants had not overcome the deference afforded to the ACLU's choice of forum. 2017 WL 1540606 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 28, 2017).

On Oct. 6, 2017, the ACLU moved for a TRO, amendment of the complaint, and class certification. The ACLU was responding to the federal government’s March 2017 policies preventing shelters from taking any actions facilitating access to abortions, including transportation to medical appointments, without signed approval from the ORR Director. In response, the ACLU sought to add a new plaintiff (who was at a federally funded, secular shelter in Texas) as class representative for a nationwide class of pregnant unaccompanied minors, plus new class claims for injunctive relief due to violations of the minors’ Fifth Amendment right to privacy and liberty and First Amendment right to be free from compelled speech (by being forced to discuss their decision to have an abortion with a crisis pregnancy center). The ACLU also sought a TRO compelling defendants to transport this plaintiff for a scheduled abortion on Oct. 13.

Magistrate Judge Beeler held an Oct. 11 motions hearing and issued an order. She denied all of the ACLU's motions, on the basis that the new plaintiff should bring a separate case – the plaintiff was not in the Northern District of California, none of the relevant events had happened there, and her claims were not "closely related" to the ACLU's Establishment Clause claim. (The ACLU has brought this case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as Garza v. Hargan, also in this Clearinghouse.) Judge Beeler also permitted several states (Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas) to file amici briefs. 2017 WL 4551492 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 11, 2017).

Discovery will end on Dec. 22, 2017, and the court will hold a hearing on May 3, 2018.

This case is ongoing.

Ava Morgenstern - 11/20/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Establishment Clause
Defendant-type
Hospital/Health Department
Discrimination-basis
Sexual orientatation
General
Abortion
Conditions of confinement
Funding
Government Services (specify)
Juveniles
Prison Rape Elimination Act
Religious programs / policies
Immigration/Border
Constitutional rights
Refugees
Undocumented immigrants - rights and duties
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Reproductive health care (including birth control, abortion, and others)
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Type of Facility
Government-run
Non-government non-profit
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Plaintiff Description Plaintiff ACLU of Northern California is a nonprofit membership organization devoted to protecting the basic civil liberties embodied in the United States Constitution
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
ACLU of Northern California
ACLU of Southern California
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  ACLU of Northern California v. Wright
www.aclusocal.org
Date: Oct. 11, 2017
By: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  ACLU Sues Federal Government for Granting Millions of Dollars to Religious Groups That Deny Young Women Access to Medical Care
www.aclunc.org
Date: Jun. 24, 2016
By: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  ACLU of Northern California v. Burwell
www.aclu.org
Date: Jun. 24, 2016
By: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
3:16−cv−03539−LB (N.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0080-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/08/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
IM-CA-0080-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/24/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 25] (2016 WL 6962871) (N.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0080-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 11/29/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff's Notice of Motion and Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint [ECF# 55]
IM-CA-0080-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/01/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 57]
IM-CA-0080-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/02/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting USCCB's Motion to Intervene [ECF# 58] (2017 WL 492833) (N.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0080-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/07/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Motion to Transfer Venue [ECF# 62]
IM-CA-0080-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/09/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Transfer [ECF# 66]
IM-CA-0080-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/23/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying the Defendants' Motion to Transfer [ECF# 76] (2017 WL 1540606) (N.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0080-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/28/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Motions For Leave to Amend and a Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 102] (2017 WL 4551492) (N.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0080-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 10/11/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Beeler, Laurel (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate]
IM-CA-0080-0002 | IM-CA-0080-0005 | IM-CA-0080-0008 | IM-CA-0080-0009 | IM-CA-0080-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Amiri, Brigitte A. (New York)
IM-CA-0080-0001 | IM-CA-0080-0003 | IM-CA-0080-0004 | IM-CA-0080-0007 | IM-CA-0080-9000
Burrows, Meagan (New York)
IM-CA-0080-9000
Chou, Jennifer Ling (California)
IM-CA-0080-0001 | IM-CA-0080-0003 | IM-CA-0080-0004 | IM-CA-0080-9000
Gill, Elizabeth O. (California)
IM-CA-0080-0001 | IM-CA-0080-0003 | IM-CA-0080-0004 | IM-CA-0080-9000
Goodman, Melissa (New York)
IM-CA-0080-0001 | IM-CA-0080-0003 | IM-CA-0080-0004 | IM-CA-0080-9000
Hauss, Brian M. (New York)
IM-CA-0080-0001 | IM-CA-0080-0003 | IM-CA-0080-0004 | IM-CA-0080-9000
Mach, Daniel (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0080-0001 | IM-CA-0080-0003 | IM-CA-0080-0004 | IM-CA-0080-9000
Wroe, Mishan Raini (California)
IM-CA-0080-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Dunn, Robert Edward (California)
IM-CA-0080-9000
Grogg, Adam Anderson (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0080-0006 | IM-CA-0080-9000
Lieber, Sheila M. (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0080-0006
Nowicki, Daniel Stanley John (California)
IM-CA-0080-9000
Phipps, Peter Joseph (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0080-0006 | IM-CA-0080-9000
Readler, Chad A. (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0080-0006
Scalia, Eugene (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0080-9000
Tomlinson, Martin (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0080-9000
Other Lawyers Hacker, David J. (Texas)
IM-CA-0080-9000

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