The United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania has dismissed without prejudice the complaint of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and Catholic Cemeteries against the federal government related to the contraception mandate. The Diocese of Pittsburgh operates several schools and other charitable institutions, and it self-insures its employees; some of its health plans were grandfathered in by the regulations, some were not.
The court held that the temporary safe harbor provision (which expires on January 1, 2014) and the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking filed by the federal government on March 21, 2012, which suggests that the government may be amenable to an emendation of the (now final) rule, both indicate that the case is unripe. As my constitutional law students studying for their Tuesday examination will surely know, ripeness turns on the questions of “fitness” of the issue for adjudication and hardship to the parties of denying review. The court held that even though the current law is final and has been formally promulgated, the noises made by the government about changing the regulations — in combination with the temporary safe harbor and the presumption that the government is acting in good faith — mean that the case is unripe. The reasoning more or less follows the pattern set in the Belmont Abbey case (see prior posting). For good measure, the court held that plaintiffs here had failed to allege standing as, in the court’s view, the injury alleged was too speculative.
The case is Zubik v. Sebelius, 2012 WL 5932977 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 27, 2012).