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Case Name County of Santa Clara v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services PB-CA-0052
Docket / Court 3:19-cv-02916 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Take Care
Attorney Organization Lambda Legal
Case Summary
On May 28, 2019, the County of Santa Clara, CA and various healthcare providers sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California for violating the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and various constitutional clauses in a ... read more >
On May 28, 2019, the County of Santa Clara, CA and various healthcare providers sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California for violating the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and various constitutional clauses in a Final Rule published on May 21, 2019. The Rule, which plaintiffs called the “Denial-of-Care” Rule, changed the way healthcare institutions must protect and accommodate healthcare providers’ religious objections to providing certain medical services. Represented by Lambda Legal, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Mayer Brown LLP, plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief to strike down the Rule as unlawful and unconstitutional, and enjoin Defendants from implementing and enforcing it. They also sought attorneys fees. This case was first assigned to Judge Nathanael M. Cousins and later reassigned to Judge William Alsup.

Plaintiffs included the County of Santa Clara (as an owner of healthcare facilities); five private healthcare facilities that provided reproductive-health services and healthcare services for LGBT individuals; four individual physicians and a licensed counselor who worked for these entities; three national associations of medical professionals; and two organizations that provided a wide range of services to the LGBT community. They alleged that the rule endangered patients’ health in the name of advancing the religious beliefs of those who are entrusted with caring for them, elevating religious objections over all other interests and values. They noted that the rule expanded the types of healthcare workers that can decline to serve patients based on religious objections, expanded the types of activities that may be objected to, and failed to reconcile the objections with the needs and rights of patients.

Their complaint contained ten separate causes of action, including three different APA violations (arbitrary and capricious, in excess of statutory authority, and not in accordance with other federal laws), as well as constitutional violations (Establishment Clause, Substantive Due Process/Right to Privacy and Personal Autonomy, Free Speech, and Equal Protection) brought by the non-County plaintiffs. Santa Clara County also alleged two violations independent from the other plaintiffs under the Spending Clause and Separation of Powers.

On June 11, 2019, plaintiffs filed a motion for a nationwide preliminary injunction to enjoin the Rule. On June 13, 2019, the court issued an order relating two other Ninth Circuit cases challenging the same HHS rule to this case; the plaintiffs in both of the related cases had also filed motions for preliminary relief. Because one or more of the parties in these cases declined to consent to have a magistrate judge hear their cases, all three were randomly reassigned to District Court Judge William Alsup.

On July 1, 2019, the court issued an order approving a stipulated request made by the parties. The order postponed the effective date of the Final Rule to November 22, 2019, and suspended the preliminary injunction motions. It also scheduled a summary judgment hearing for October 30, 2019. On July 8, the court issued an order granting all three cases’ parties’ Joint Administrative Motion for Relief from Automatic Referral to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Multi-Option Program, excusing them from mandatory participation.

On August 21, 2019, HSS filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment. Following the hearing on October 30, 2019, the court granted the plaintiffs' motion of summary judgment and denied HHS's motion to dismiss on November 19, 2019. The court vacated the Rule for its discriminatory and unconstitutional scope. Specifically, the court found that some of the Rule's definitions extended the scope of its religious exemption beyond the text of underlying federal statutes that authorized conscience objections by healthcare workers. Final judgment was entered on January 8, 2020. 411 F.Supp. 3d 1001.

HHS appealed the decision on March 6, 2020. The appeal was assigned USCA Case Number 20-15399 and is ongoing.

Elise Coletta - 07/14/2019
Zofia Peach - 10/17/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Establishment Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Defendant-type
Hospital/Health Department
Discrimination-basis
Gender identity
Sex discrimination
Sexual orientatation
General
Abortion
Contraception
Gay/lesbian/transgender
Pattern or Practice
Record-keeping
Medical/Mental Health
Reproductive health care (including birth control, abortion, and others)
Plaintiff Type
City/County Plaintiff
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Plaintiff Description County of Santa Clara (as an owner of healthcare facilities); five private healthcare facilities that provide reproductive-health services and healthcare services for LGBT individuals; four individual physicians and a licensed counselor who work for these entities; three national associations of medical professionals; and two organizations that provide a wide range of services to the LGBT community.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Lambda Legal
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
Filed 05/28/2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
N.D. Cal. 3:19-cv-2916
PB-CA-0052-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/02/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Cal.
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PB-CA-0052-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/28/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Order Granting Motion to Relate Cases [ECF# 38]
PB-CA-0052-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/13/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Order RE Defendants' Administrative Motion to Adjust Schedule [ECF# 46]
PB-CA-0052-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/27/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Order RE Stipulated Request and Briefing Schedule [ECF# 51]
PB-CA-0052-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/01/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Order Re Motions to Dismiss and for Summary judgment and Requests for Judicial Notice [ECF# 87] (411 F.Supp.3d 1001)
PB-CA-0052-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/19/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
Final Judgment [ECF# 89]
PB-CA-0052-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Alsup, William Haskell (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-0003 | PB-CA-0052-0004 | PB-CA-0052-0005 | PB-CA-0052-0006 | PB-CA-0052-9000
Spero, Joseph C. (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-0002
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cheema, Puneet (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Edwards, Hannah Luke (California) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Gliksberg, Jamie Avra (Illinois) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-0001 | PB-CA-0052-9000
Gonzalez−Pagan, Omar (New York) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-0001 | PB-CA-0052-9000
Greenberg, Susan Pearl (California) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Hanna-Weir, Mary Elizabeth (California) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-0001 | PB-CA-0052-9000
Katskee, Richard B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-0001 | PB-CA-0052-9000
Muqaddam, Rabia (New York) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Nemetz, Miriam R. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-0001 | PB-CA-0052-9000
Parker, Christine Marie (New York) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Rubin, Lee H (California) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-0001 | PB-CA-0052-9000
Saharsky, Nicole A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Scott, Genevieve (New York) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-0001 | PB-CA-0052-9000
Tauber, Andrew E (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Taylor, Camilla B. (Illinois) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Upton, Kenneth Dale Jr (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Kopplin, Rebecca M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Takemoto, Benjamin Thomas (California) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Other Lawyers Edens, Geraldine (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Grab, Denise Antonia (New York) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Harris, Susan Feigin (Texas) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Manning, Susan Baker (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Moody, Anna Augusta (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000
Selden, Shannon Rose (New York) show/hide docs
PB-CA-0052-9000

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