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Case Name Commonwealth v. Trump PB-PA-0021
Docket / Court 2:17-cv-04540-WB ( E.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Case Summary
On October 11, 2017, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania brought this suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The case is a challenge to administrative rules promulgated by the federal government that interpret the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a way that gives employers broad discretion to ... read more >
On October 11, 2017, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania brought this suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The case is a challenge to administrative rules promulgated by the federal government that interpret the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a way that gives employers broad discretion to deny women access to contraceptives. As such, the suit was brought against the President of the United States, acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Treasury, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, and their undersigned departments. The ACA specifically enumerated a contraceptive mandate, which required employer-sponsored health plans to cover contraception. Defendants issued two administrative rules that expanded the ability of employers to opt out of these requirements based on moral or religious objections to providing these specific items.

The plaintiff alleged that these rules were arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, discriminatory against women in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and contravened the procedural requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. The plaintiff contended that the rule conflicted with the establishment clause of the First Amendment by impermissibly promoting religious beliefs and with Fifth Amendment equal protection requirements enshrined in the Due Process Clause. It sought declaratory relief, attorney’s fees, and for the two administrative rules in question to be vacated. It also immediately moved for a preliminary and permanent injunction against the two rules.

On December 15, 2017, the court (District Judge Wendy J. Beetlestone) initially granted the plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction, requiring the federal government to refrain from enforcing either the religious or moral exemptions rule pending the final ruling of the court. The court found that the rules were likely to have violated both substantive and procedural portions of the Administrative Procedure Act and because the rules would immediately take effect, the preliminary injunction was granted. 281 F.Supp.3d 553. The federal government appealed the injunction and the court granted a stay pending the appeal on February 9, 2018, with the preliminary injunction conditionally still in place.

While the case was being litigated, the federal government amended the two rules that the court had enjoined them from enforcing. By amending these two rules, the federal government essentially circumvented the injunction. The court then lifted the stay on proceedings on December 14, 2018. The plaintiff filed an amended complaint on the same day, incorporating the federal government’s amended rules and including most of the same allegations as the original complaint. The amended complaint also joined the Attorney General of New Jersey as a plaintiff. On January 14, 2019, the day that the proposed federal exemption rules were to go into effect, the District Court granted a preliminary injunction against nationwide enforcement of both rules. 351 F.Supp.3d 791. The federal government again appealed, arguing that the states both lacked standing to stay the two rules on a nationwide basis and that the agencies had discretion to interpret the ACA in the way they did.

On July 12, 2019, the Third Circuit Court (Circuit Judges Shwartz, McKee, and Fuentes)affirmed the District Court’s grant of preliminary injunctions. The court found that the states had standing to seek an injunction based on the significant and imminent loss for tens of thousands of Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents of access to contraceptive care. They also found that plaintiffs were entitled to a preliminary injunction because they had established a reasonable chance of winning the case on its merits and that they would suffer immediate harm without relief. The circuit court found that the proposed rules likely violated substantive and procedural constraints in the Administrative Procedure Act. 930 F.3d 543. The Federal Government sought certiorari from the Supreme Court, which was granted on January 17, 2020. Oral Argument is scheduled for April 29, 2020.

Defendants had filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction on March 28, 2019, and both parties filed summary judgment motions on the merits of the case: the plaintiffs on May 15, 2019, and the defendants on June 14, 2019. These three motions were all held in abeyance pending the resolution of the Supreme Court ruling on the court’s preliminary injunction.

Dan Toubman - 02/29/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Establishment Clause
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Hospital/Health Department
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Sex discrimination
General
Contraception
Plaintiff Type
State Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Defendant(s) Alexander Acosta
Donald J Trump
Donald J. Wright
Steven T. Mnuchin
United States Department of Health and Human Services
United States Department of Labor
United States Department of the Treasury
Plaintiff Description Attorney Generals of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
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
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2019 - n/a
Filed 2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
2:17-cv-04540 (E.D. Pa.)
PB-PA-0021-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/23/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PB-PA-0021-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/11/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [ECF# 59] (281 F.Supp.3d 553) (E.D. Pa.)
PB-PA-0021-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/15/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 60] (E.D. Pa.)
PB-PA-0021-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/15/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 73] (E.D. Pa.)
PB-PA-0021-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/09/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 87] (E.D. Pa.)
PB-PA-0021-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/14/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 88] (E.D. Pa.)
PB-PA-0021-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/14/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 89]
PB-PA-0021-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/14/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 135] (E.D. Pa.)
PB-PA-0021-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/14/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [ECF# 136] (351 F.Supp.3d 791) (E.D. Pa.)
PB-PA-0021-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/14/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion of the Court (930 F.3d 543)
PB-PA-0021-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/12/2019
Source: Westlaw
Order [ECF# 232] (E.D. Pa.)
PB-PA-0021-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/31/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Beetlestone, Wendy (E.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-0002 | PB-PA-0021-0003 | PB-PA-0021-0004 | PB-PA-0021-0005 | PB-PA-0021-0006 | PB-PA-0021-0008 | PB-PA-0021-0009 | PB-PA-0021-0010 | PB-PA-0021-9000
Fuentes, Julio M. (Third Circuit) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-0011
McKee, Theodore Alexander (Third Circuit) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-0011
Shwartz, Patty (D.N.J., Third Circuit) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-0011
Plaintiff's Lawyers Arffa, Allan J. (New York) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Batchelder, Rhiannon Nicole (New York) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Boland, Nicole J (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-0001 | PB-PA-0021-9000
Brock, Nikole (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Cahall, Kimberly A (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-0007
Cohen, David Samuel (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Fischer, Michael J (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-0001 | PB-PA-0021-0007 | PB-PA-0021-9000
Flaxman, Carrie Y. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Fuhrman, Jessica B (New York) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Goldman, Jonathan Scott (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-0001 | PB-PA-0021-9000
Green, Carmen Nicole (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Grewal, Gurbir (New York) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-0007
Hans, Elspeth L.H. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-0007 | PB-PA-0021-9000
Katskee, Richard B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Krefetz, Marc Alan (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Lassen, Nancy B.G. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
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Layerenza, Melanie M. Meneguin (New York) show/hide docs
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Levitt, Jamie A. (New York) show/hide docs
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Manion, Francis J (Kentucky) show/hide docs
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Matz, Joshua A (New York) show/hide docs
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Moramarco, Glenn J (New Jersey) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-0007 | PB-PA-0021-9000
Nissimyan, Talia (New York) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Pasek, Jeffrey I. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
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Robart, Sierra A.Y. (New York) show/hide docs
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Schulman, Janie Fay (California) show/hide docs
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Shapiro, Joshua D. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-0001 | PB-PA-0021-0007
Smith, Priscilla (New York) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Sulcove, Lauren E (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
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Tanner, Alison (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Thomson, Aimee D (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-0007 | PB-PA-0021-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Centrella, Nicholas M. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Davis, Ethan P. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Healy, Christopher (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Kade, Elizabeth Lanier (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Kopplin, Rebecca M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
McElvain, Joel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Rassbach, Eric C (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Reid, Scott Webster (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Rienzi, Mark (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Sandberg, Justin Michael (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Verm, Diana Marie (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Windham, Lori H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Other Lawyers Bruno, Leah R. (Illinois) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Feldman, Jeffrey S (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000
Miller, Jonathan B. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
PB-PA-0021-9000

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