Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Supreme Court Grants Review In Two Contraceptive Coverage Mandate Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court today (11/26/2013) granted certiorari in two cases challenging the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate, and consolidated them for appeal allotting one hour for oral argument. (Order List.) The cases are Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc, (Docket No. 13-354) and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, (Docket No. 13-356).

In the Hobby Lobby case, an 8-judge en banc panel of the 10th Circuit Court (in six separate opinions spanning 165 pages) held that two related family-owned corporate businesses had demonstrated a likelihood of success on their claim that their free exercise rights were substantially burdened in violation of RFRA.  The corporations and their Christian owners objected to providing coverage for those contraceptives they regard as abortifacients.  Five of the 8 judges held that corporations have free exercise rights. Four of the 8 judges also concluded that the individual shareholders have standing to assert claims as well. (See prior posting.) From Becket Fund, here is a link to all the pleadings and briefs in the case since its inception.

In Conestoga Wood Specialties, the 3rd Circuit in a 2-1 decision denied a preliminary injunction sought by a family-owned business which, along with its Mennonite owners, objected to providing coverage for contraceptive methods that may terminate a fertilized embryo. The majority opinion held that "for-profit, secular corporations cannot engage in religious exercise," and that the conscience rights of the owners of a corporation do not pass through to the corporation. (See prior posting.) By a 7-5 vote, the 3rd Circuit denied an en banc rehearing. (See prior posting.) From Becket Fund, here is a link to the prior opinions and Supreme Court filings in the case.

CNN has additional coverage of the Supreme Court's action.