Health Reform WK-EDGE College’s motions after favorable ACA contraception ruling mystify court
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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

College’s motions after favorable ACA contraception ruling mystify court

By Cathleen Calhoun, J.D.

Why would a college bring motions for relief when reopening the proceedings could bring a less favorable result?

Louisiana College’s motions for declaratory and injunctive relief, which were brought after it received a ruling in its favor regarding contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148), were denied. Louisiana College argued that because its motion for injunctive relief was withdrawn before being argued, the matter of injunctive relief could still be considered by the court. However, the court found that Louisiana College suffered no harm and that the claims were unable to be settled by the court (Louisiana College v. Sebelius, March 12, 2019, Drell, D.).

Original complaint. An original complaint was filed by Louisiana College seeking to avoid, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (42 U.S.C. § 2000bb), the ACA (P.L. 111-148) requirement to provide contraception coverage. Louisiana College, like other institutions, argued that its sincerely held religious beliefs were infringed upon by the contraception coverage requirement and that it was entitled to an exemption. At the time of the claim, district courts across the country were hearing similar claims. Louisiana College withdrew its motion for injunctive relief and the case proceeded to a decision on the merits by motion to dismiss and cross-motion for summary judgment. On August 13, 2014, the court found that Louisiana College was entitled to relief under RFRA and ruled in the college’s favor.

Motions at hand. Louisiana College made three requests in the present case: (1) a request for a permanent injunction recognizing its rights under RFRA in accordance with prior rulings (because injunctive relief was withdrawn before arguing); (2) declaratory relief in the form of a declaration of relationship between the parties that entitles it to some greater relief than previously granted; and (3) leave to bring an out-of-time claim for attorney fees. The court found that while it understood Louisiana Colleges concerns, the concerns did not translate into an actionable basis for relief. Louisiana College was not able to communicate an actual harm and, as a result, the court found that it would not be able to indicate a specific relief. Also, the request for attorney fees seven months after the due date was excessive in its untimeliness and rewarding attorney fees would not be fair, according to the court.

Conclusion. Granting the declaratory and/or injunctive relief could possibly reopen the underlying proceedings, and now-existing regulations and recent jurisprudence could result in a much less favorable result for Louisiana College, according to the court. Louisiana College also conceded that the relief granted by the court in 2014 is final and that the government is bound by it. As a result, the present claims for declaratory and/or injunctive relief were denied.

Attorneys: Gregory Scott Baylor (Alliance Defending Freedom) and James C. Lewis (Glenn Armentor Law Corp) for Louisiana College. Bradley Philip Humphreys, U.S. Department of Justice, for Kathleen Sebelius.

Companies: Louisiana College

Cases: CaseDecisions ContraceptionCoverageNews HealthInsuranceExchangeNews LouisianaNews

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