Health Reform WK-EDGE HHS family planning funding rule vacated only in Maryland, not nationwide
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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

HHS family planning funding rule vacated only in Maryland, not nationwide

By Elena Eyber, J.D.

A permanent injunction of HHS rule with respect to funding of family planning services was limited to Maryland and was not expanded nationwide.

A federal district court in Maryland denied Baltimore City’s motion to alter or amend the judgment to expand the injunctive relief from the HHS family planning funding rule from statewide to nationwide. Initially, Baltimore City sought injunctive relief from the HHS rule (84 FR 7714) that would amend federal regulations with respect to the funding of family planning services, and the court granted a permanent injunction in the State of Maryland. Subsequently, Baltimore City filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment seeking a nationwide injunction of the HHS rule instead of the state-wide injunction the court had ordered. The court denied Baltimore’s City motion to alter or amend the judgment holding that the court had consistently declined to enter nationwide relief and Baltimore City had previously not requested a nationwide injunction (Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Azar, April 15, 2020, Bennett, R.).

Clear error of law. Baltimore City moved to amend the court’s judgment, which vacated the HHS rule and granted a permanent injunction in the state of Maryland. Baltimore City asserted that the court had to correct "a clear error of law" in its judgment because the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) required that the HHS rule be vacated and set aside on a nationwide basis, without geographic limitation. The court held that the APA did not require a reviewing court vacating a rule to do so on a nationwide basis. There was no authority in either Fourth Circuit or Supreme Court jurisprudence that mandated this finding. Therefore, the court held that Baltimore City failed to meet its burden to establish the court’s need to correct a "clear error of law."

Nationwide injunction. The court found that Baltimore City had never previously sought vacatur of the HHS rule on a nationwide basis. A permanent injunction in the state of Maryland, resulting in vacatur of the HHS rule in the state of Maryland was precisely what Baltimore City had sought from the inception of the litigation. Further, in addressing Baltimore City’s arguments on their merits, the court was not persuaded that vacatur must be nationwide. The court had been explicit that the scope of any relief afforded to Baltimore City would be state-wide only to remedy Baltimore City’s specific alleged harms in the state of Maryland. As a result, a permanent injunction limited to the state of Maryland, resulting in vacatur of the HHS rule only in Maryland, was both practical and reasonable to afford Baltimore City complete relief.

The case is Civil Action No. RDB-19-1103.

Attorneys: Andrew T. Tutt (Arnold and Porter Kaye Scholder LLP) for Mayor and City Council of Baltimore. Tarra Deshields Minnis, Office of the U.S. Attorney, for Alex M. Azar, II.

Cases: CaseDecisions AccessNews AgencyNews ContraceptionCoverageNews MarylandNews NewsFeed

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