Case: Wheaton College v. Sebelius

1:12-cv-01169 | U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Filed Date: July 18, 2012

Closed Date: 2013

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On July 18, 2012, Wheaton College, a Christian liberal arts college, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), and the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"), against the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, asked the court for both declaratory and injunctive relief, al…

On July 18, 2012, Wheaton College, a Christian liberal arts college, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"), and the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"), against the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, asked the court for both declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that federal rules adopted pursuant to the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("ACA") violated its religious freedom by requiring it to provide coverage for contraception through its group health insurance plan. Specifically, the plaintiff objected to the ACA rules requiring it to provide coverage for emergency contraception, which the plaintiff considered an abortifacient. The plaintiff did not object to other forms of contraception. Claiming that providing coverage for emergency contraception would both contravene its Christian faith and compel speech contrary to its beliefs, the plaintiff sought an exemption from the ACA's contraception mandate for itself and other institutions with similar religious objections.

On August 10, 2012, the defendant departments moved to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. The defendants argued that the plaintiff could not claim any imminent harm because the plaintiff qualified for the enforcement "safe harbor" period extending until January 1, 2014, and because the defendants were in the process of amending the contraceptive coverage regulations to accommodate the objections of religious institutions like the plaintiff. In its brief opposing the motion to dismiss, the plaintiff argued that it could claim imminent harm because the safe harbor period did not protect it from private ERISA lawsuits seeking to enforce the contraception mandate, and because the anticipated amendments likely would not change the emergency contraception coverage requirement.

On August 24, 2012, the District Court (Judge Ellen S. Huvelle) granted the defendants' motion to dismiss and denied the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. Judge Huvelle found that, in light of the defendants' efforts to address the plaintiff's concerns via the safe harbor period and the anticipated amendments, the plaintiff had not alleged a concrete and imminent harm, and that as a result the plaintiff lacked standing and its claim was not yet ripe for review. Wheaton College v. Sebelius, 887 F. Supp. 2d 102 (D.D.C. 2012).

The plaintiff appealed the dismissal and injunction denial to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (Case No. 12-5273). The case was consolidated with Belmont Abbey College v. Sebelius (Case No. 12-5291) on appeal. On December 18, 2012, the Circuit Court (Judges Merrick B. Garland, Thomas B. Griffith, and A. Raymond Randolph) affirmed the district court's dismissal for lack of ripeness, and ordered that the lawsuit be held in abeyance pending the issuance of the amended contraceptive coverage regulations. The defendants were directed to file status reports with the court every 60 days from the date of the abeyance order. Wheaton College v. Sebelius, 703 F.3d 551 (D.C. Cir. 2012).

On August 13, 2013, the Court of Appeals remanded the case and ordered the lower court to vacate the August 24, 2012, judgment and dismiss both cases as moot. The plaintiffs refiled this case in the Northern District of Illinois on December 13, 2013. Wheaton College v. Sebelius.

Summary Authors

Hannah Swanson (3/30/2013)

Mallory Jones (3/24/2014)

Kate Craddock (2/1/2016)

Related Cases

Belmont Abbey College v. Sebelius [I], District of Columbia (2011)

Wheaton College v. Sebelius, Northern District of Illinois (2013)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4996273/parties/wheaton-college-v-sebelius/


Judge(s)

Garland, James M (District of Columbia)

Huvelle, Ellen Segal (District of Columbia)

Attorney for Plaintiff

Duncan, Stuart Kyle (District of Columbia)

Duncan, S. Kyle (District of Columbia)

Attorney for Defendant

Bennett, Michelle Renee (District of Columbia)

Judge(s)

Garland, James M (District of Columbia)

Huvelle, Ellen Segal (District of Columbia)

Randolph, Arthur Raymond (District of Columbia)

show all people

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

1:12-cv-01169

Docket

Aug. 19, 2013

Aug. 19, 2013

Docket
1

1:12-cv-01169

Complaint

July 18, 2012

July 18, 2012

Pleading / Motion / Brief
4-1

1:12-cv-01169

Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction

Aug. 1, 2012

Aug. 1, 2012

Pleading / Motion / Brief
20

1:12-cv-01169

Opinion [re Order Granting Motion to Dismiss and Denying PI Motion]

Aug. 24, 2012

Aug. 24, 2012

Order/Opinion
21

1:12-cv-01169

Order [Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction]

Aug. 24, 2012

Aug. 24, 2012

Order/Opinion
23

1:12-cv-01169

Notice of Appeal to D.C. Circuit

Aug. 29, 2012

Aug. 29, 2012

Notice Letter
27

1:12-cv-01169

0:12-05273

Order [Holding Case in Abeyance Pending Issuance of Gov't Rule]

U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Dec. 18, 2012

Dec. 18, 2012

Order/Opinion
28

1:12-cv-01169

Order [of USCA]

Wheaton College v. Sebelius

Aug. 13, 2013

Aug. 13, 2013

Order/Opinion
29

1:12-cv-01169

Order [vacating judgment]

Aug. 19, 2013

Aug. 19, 2013

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4996273/wheaton-college-v-sebelius/

Last updated Nov. 23, 2023, 3:07 a.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link
1

COMPLAINT against All Defendants ( Filing fee $ 350 receipt number 0090-3006350) filed by WHEATON COLLEGE. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Summons Kathleen Sebelius, # 3 Summons US Department of Health and Human Services, # 4 Summons Hilda Solis, # 5 Summons US Department of Labor, # 6 Summons Timothy Geithner, # 7 Summons US Department of the Treasury)(Kniffin, Eric) (Entered: 07/18/2012)

1 Civil Cover Sheet

View on PACER

2 Summons Kathleen Sebelius

View on PACER

3 Summons US Department of Health and Human Services

View on PACER

4 Summons Hilda Solis

View on PACER

5 Summons US Department of Labor

View on PACER

6 Summons Timothy Geithner

View on PACER

7 Summons US Department of the Treasury

View on PACER

July 18, 2012

July 18, 2012

RECAP

Case Assigned to Judge Ellen S. Huvelle. (sth, )

July 18, 2012

July 18, 2012

PACER
2

Electronic Summons (6) Issued as to TIMOTHY GEITHNER, KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HILDA SOLIS, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY. (Attachments: # 1 Summons, # 2 Summons, # 3 Summons, # 4 Summons, # 5 Summons, # 6 Summons)(sth, ) (Entered: 07/18/2012)

July 18, 2012

July 18, 2012

PACER
3

NOTICE of Appearance by Mark L. Rienzi on behalf of WHEATON COLLEGE (Rienzi, Mark) (Entered: 07/23/2012)

July 23, 2012

July 23, 2012

PACER
4

MOTION for Preliminary Injunction by WHEATON COLLEGE (Attachments: # 1 Memorandum in Support, # 2 Text of Proposed Order, # 3 Exhibit A, # 4 Exhibit B, # 5 Exhibit C, # 6 Exhibit D, # 7 Exhibit E, # 8 Exhibit F)(Rienzi, Mark) (Entered: 08/01/2012)

Aug. 1, 2012

Aug. 1, 2012

PACER
5

MOTION for Leave to Appear Pro Hac Vice :Attorney Name- S. Kyle Duncan, :Firm- The Becket Fund, :Address- 3000 K St. NW, Ste. 220, Washington, DC 20007. Phone No. - 202-349-7209. Fax No. - 202-955-0090 by WHEATON COLLEGE (Attachments: # 1 Declaration)(Kniffin, Eric) (Entered: 08/02/2012)

Aug. 2, 2012

Aug. 2, 2012

PACER

MINUTE ORDER: it is hereby ORDERED that 5 Motion for Leave to Appear Pro Hac Vice is GRANTED; and it is further ORDERED that S. Kyle Duncan is admitted pro hac vice for the purpose of appearing in open court in the above-captioned case subject to his applying for admission to the Bar of this Court upon the granting of his pending application for admission to the District of Columbia Bar. Signed by Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on August 3, 2012. (AG)

Aug. 3, 2012

Aug. 3, 2012

PACER
6

SCHEDULING ORDER: Defendants' motion is due by 8/10/2012 at 12 p.m., plaintiff's opposition is due by 8/16/2012, and defendants' reply is due by 8/20/2012. Motion hearing set for 8/23/2012 at 2:30 p.m. in Courtroom 23A before Judge Ellen S. Huvelle. Signed by Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on August 3, 2012. (lcesh1) (Entered: 08/03/2012)

Aug. 3, 2012

Aug. 3, 2012

PACER

Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Ellen S. Huvelle: Telephone Conference held in Chambers on 8/3/2012. (gdf)

Aug. 3, 2012

Aug. 3, 2012

PACER
7

RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS served on 7/24/2012 (Kniffin, Eric) (Entered: 08/07/2012)

Aug. 7, 2012

Aug. 7, 2012

PACER
8

RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES served on 7/24/2012 (Kniffin, Eric) (Entered: 08/07/2012)

Aug. 7, 2012

Aug. 7, 2012

PACER
9

RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. HILDA SOLIS served on 7/24/2012 (Kniffin, Eric) (Entered: 08/07/2012)

Aug. 7, 2012

Aug. 7, 2012

PACER
10

RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR served on 7/24/2012 (Kniffin, Eric) (Entered: 08/07/2012)

Aug. 7, 2012

Aug. 7, 2012

PACER
11

RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. TIMOTHY GEITHNER served on 7/25/2012 (Kniffin, Eric) (Entered: 08/07/2012)

Aug. 7, 2012

Aug. 7, 2012

PACER
12

RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY served on 7/25/2012 (Kniffin, Eric) (Entered: 08/07/2012)

Aug. 7, 2012

Aug. 7, 2012

PACER
13

RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed as to the United States Attorney. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney on 7/24/2012. Answer due for ALL FEDERAL DEFENDANTS by 9/22/2012. (Kniffin, Eric) (Entered: 08/07/2012)

Aug. 7, 2012

Aug. 7, 2012

PACER
14

RETURN OF SERVICE/AFFIDAVIT of Summons and Complaint Executed on United States Attorney General. Date of Service Upon United States Attorney General 07/24/2012. (Kniffin, Eric) (Entered: 08/07/2012)

Aug. 7, 2012

Aug. 7, 2012

PACER
15

NOTICE of Appearance by Lori H. Windham on behalf of WHEATON COLLEGE (Windham, Lori) (Entered: 08/09/2012)

Aug. 9, 2012

Aug. 9, 2012

PACER
16

NOTICE of Appearance by Michelle Renee Bennett on behalf of All Defendants (Bennett, Michelle) (Entered: 08/10/2012)

Aug. 10, 2012

Aug. 10, 2012

PACER
17

MOTION to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction by TIMOTHY GEITHNER, KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HILDA SOLIS, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY (Attachments: # 1 Memorandum in Support, # 2 Declaration of Michael Hash, # 3 Exhibit 1 to Hash Declaration, # 4 Text of Proposed Order)(Bennett, Michelle) (Entered: 08/10/2012)

1 Memorandum in Support

View on PACER

2 Declaration of Michael Hash

View on PACER

3 Exhibit 1 to Hash Declaration

View on PACER

4 Text of Proposed Order

View on PACER

Aug. 10, 2012

Aug. 10, 2012

RECAP
18

Memorandum in opposition to re 17 MOTION to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction filed by WHEATON COLLEGE. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A)(Rienzi, Mark) (Entered: 08/16/2012)

1 Exhibit A

View on PACER

Aug. 16, 2012

Aug. 16, 2012

PACER
19

REPLY to opposition to motion re 17 MOTION to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction filed by TIMOTHY GEITHNER, KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HILDA SOLIS, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A)(Bennett, Michelle) (Entered: 08/20/2012)

1 Exhibit A

View on PACER

Aug. 20, 2012

Aug. 20, 2012

RECAP

Minute Entry for Proceedings held before Judge Ellen S. Huvelle: Motion Hearing held on 8/23/2012 re: 17 MOTION to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction. Motion was Heard and Taken Under Advisement. (Court Reporter: Scott Wallace) (jth)

Aug. 23, 2012

Aug. 23, 2012

PACER
20

MEMORANDUM OPINION re 17 defendants' motion to dismiss. Signed by Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on August 24, 2012. (lcesh1) (Entered: 08/24/2012)

Aug. 24, 2012

Aug. 24, 2012

RECAP
21

VACATED PER ORDER FILED 8/19/2013.....ORDER granting 17 defendants' motion to dismiss, and denying as moot 4 plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. Signed by Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on August 24, 2012. (lcesh1) (Entered: 08/24/2012)

Aug. 24, 2012

Aug. 24, 2012

PACER
22

ENTERED IN ERROR.....NOTICE of Appeal by WHEATON COLLEGE re 21 Order on Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Order on Motion to Dismiss/Lack of Jurisdiction, 20 Memorandum & Opinion (Rienzi, Mark) Modified on 8/29/2012 (jf, ). (Entered: 08/29/2012)

Aug. 29, 2012

Aug. 29, 2012

PACER

NOTICE OF CORRECTED DOCKET ENTRY: Document No. re 22 NOTICE of Appeal was entered in error and counsel was instructed to refile said pleading under the correct category (Appeal Documents Event). (jf, )

Aug. 29, 2012

Aug. 29, 2012

PACER
23

NOTICE OF APPEAL TO DC CIRCUIT COURT as to 21 Order on Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Order on Motion to Dismiss/Lack of Jurisdiction, 20 Memorandum & Opinion by WHEATON COLLEGE. Filing fee $ 455, receipt number 0090-3052669. Fee Status: Fee Paid. Parties have been notified. (Rienzi, Mark) (Entered: 08/29/2012)

Aug. 29, 2012

Aug. 29, 2012

PACER
24

Transmission of the Notice of Appeal, Order Appealed, and Docket Sheet to US Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals fee was paid this date re 23 Notice of Appeal to DC Circuit Court,. (jf, ) (Entered: 08/30/2012)

Aug. 30, 2012

Aug. 30, 2012

PACER
25

**CORRECTED**Transmission of the Notice of Appeal, Order Appealed, and Docket Sheet to US Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals fee was paid this date re 23 Notice of Appeal to DC Circuit Court,. (jf, ) (Entered: 08/30/2012)

Aug. 30, 2012

Aug. 30, 2012

PACER

USCA Case Number 12-5273 for 23 Notice of Appeal to DC Circuit Court, filed by WHEATON COLLEGE. (jf, )

Sept. 7, 2012

Sept. 7, 2012

PACER
26

ORDER of USCA as to 23 Notice of Appeal to DC Circuit Court, filed by WHEATON COLLEGE; ORDERED that the motion be granted. USCA Case Number 12-5273. (md, ) (Entered: 09/14/2012)

Sept. 12, 2012

Sept. 12, 2012

PACER
27

ORDER of USCA as to (37 in 1:11-cv-01989-JEB) Notice of Appeal to DC Circuit Court, filed by BELMONT ABBEY COLLEGE, (23 in 1:12-cv-01169-ESH) Notice of Appeal to DC Circuit Court, filed by WHEATON COLLEGE ; USCA Case Number 12-5273. ORDERED, that in reliance upon the Departments binding representations, this court will hold these cases in abeyance, subject to regular status reports to be filed by the government with this court every 60 days from the date of this order. (kb) (Entered: 12/20/2012)

Dec. 18, 2012

Dec. 18, 2012

PACER
28

ORDER of USCA (certified copy) as to 23 Notice of Appeal to DC Circuit Court, filed by WHEATON COLLEGE; ORDERED that these consolidated cases be remanded to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia with instructions to vacate their judgements and to dismiss the complaints as moot. USCA Case Number 12-5273. (md, ) (Entered: 08/16/2013)

Aug. 13, 2013

Aug. 13, 2013

PACER
29

ORDER vacating 21 judgment of August 24, 2012, and dismissing case as moot per 28 USCA Order of August 13, 2013. Signed by Judge Ellen S. Huvelle on August 19, 2013. (AG) (Entered: 08/19/2013)

Aug. 19, 2013

Aug. 19, 2013

RECAP

Case Details

State / Territory: District of Columbia

Case Type(s):

Speech and Religious Freedom

Special Collection(s):

Contraception Insurance Mandate

Multi-LexSum (in sample)

Key Dates

Filing Date: July 18, 2012

Closing Date: 2013

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Plaintiff is a Christian liberal arts college that opposes the use of emergency contraception for religious reasons, and therefore objects to the contraception mandate in the ACA.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (Washington), Federal

U.S. Dept. of Labor (Washington), Federal

U.S. Dept. of the Treasury (Washington), Federal

Defendant Type(s):

Hospital/Health Department

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Religious Freedom Rest. Act/Religious Land Use and Inst. Persons Act (RFRA/RLUIPA)

Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.

Constitutional Clause(s):

Free Exercise Clause

Establishment Clause

Freedom of speech/association

Available Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

None yet

Source of Relief:

None

Content of Injunction:

Preliminary relief denied

Issues

Reproductive rights:

Contraception

General:

Religious programs / policies

Discrimination-basis:

Religion discrimination