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From Health Law Daily, July 19, 2013

District judge grants Hobby Lobby preliminary injunction against contraception mandate

By Sarah E. Baumann, JD

A federal judge granted two for-profit entities and their owners a preliminary injunction barring the federal government from enforcing the preventive services provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (P.L. 111-148) against them (Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v Sebelius, July 19, 2013, Heaton, J). The district court, which previously denied the injunction, reviewed the matter on remand from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and determined that the balance of equities and the public interest weighed in favor of Hobby Lobby. As a result, the district court granted Hobby Lobby’s emergency motion for preliminary injunction and stayed proceedings until October 1, 2013.

Background. Hobby Lobby filed suit against HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and various federal government entities, alleging that the preventive care services provision of PPACA, which requires it to cover forms of contraception that Hobby Lobby considers to be abortifacients, such as Ella, Plan B, and intrauterine devices, violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (P.L. 103-141), the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, and the Administrative Procedure Act. It also requested a preliminary injunction based on the RFRA and Free Exercise claims. The district court denied the request for an injunction, determining that Hobby Lobby would not be substantially burdened by meeting the requirement. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, and upheld the decision. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor denied Hobby Lobby’s request for an injunction pursuant to the All Writs Act, but noted that it could continue to litigate the case at the district court level.

Tenth Circuit en banc ruling. Hobby Lobby then requested an en banc hearing with the Tenth Circuit. The Tenth Circuit determined that the RFRA did not exclude-for-profit corporations from its protection and that the preventive services provision of PPACA placed a substantial burden on Hobby Lobby’s free exercise of religion without serving a compelling government interest, in violation of the RFRA. In evaluating the four-prong test for a preliminary injunction, the appellate court determined that Hobby Lobby had demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of the case and that it would suffer irreparable harm if it did not grant the injunction. However, the members could not agree as to whether the balance of equities between the parties and the public interest also weighed in favor of a preliminary injunction. As a result, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of the request for preliminary injunction and remanded it to the district court to determine whether the remaining two factors weighed in favor of a preliminary injunction.

District court reconsideration. Upon remand, the district court judge determined that both the balance of equities and the public interest weighed in favor of a preliminary injunction. As a result, he granted Hobby Lobby’s emergency motion for preliminary injunction and stayed further proceedings until October 1, 2013 to allow the government to determine whether it would appeal the decision.

The case number is CIV-12-1000-HE.

Attorneys: Charles E. Geister III (Hartzog Conger Carson & Neville) for Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., and Mardel Inc. Michelle R. Bennett, U.S. Department of Justice Civil Div-20-DC Federal Programs Branch, for Kathleen Sebelius, Hilda Solis, and Timothy Geithner, Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury, respectively; and the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury.

Companies: Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.; Mardel Inc.; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; U.S. Department of Labor; U.S. Department of the Treasury

Cases: TopStory HealthReformNews OklahomaNews

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