Federal judge in Colorado issues first injunction against HHS Mandate; Expect more to come

07/30/2012 - 12:52pm

Hercules Industries leadership: (L to R) James (Jim) Newland, Andrew (Andy) Newland, Paul Newland, William (Bill) Newland

A federal district court in Colorado granted a preliminary injunction against a controversial Obamacare regulation on July 27, 2012.

This is no small matter. Courts only grant injunctions under extraordinary circumstances. Plaintiffs seeking an injunction must meet a very difficult standard. Not only must they show that they will suffer irreparable harm without the injunction, they must also prove that they likely to win their case. Therefore, when a federal court grants an injunction, it is making a preliminary assessment that the law is on the side of the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs in this case are the Newland family, of Colorado, owners of a Denver HVAC manufacturing company called, Hercules Industries.[1] The Newlands seek to operate their Hercules Industries in a way that conforms to their Catholic beliefs.[2] Their beliefs, however, run contrary to a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that businesses must provide contraceptive services to their employees free of charge.

While the law provides a narrow exemption for churches and an “accommodation” for religious organizations, it makes no concessions to individuals or other entities operating for-profit businesses. Without this injunction, Hercules Industries would have been subject to millions of dollars in fines.[3]

The Newland’s legal case relies on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and is so strong that even Judge John L. Kane, appointed by President Jimmy Carter, has had to make the preliminary assessment that the Obama Administration has violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Judge Kane is not exactly a right-wing conservative. For instance, in a University of Denver video he suggests that the entire Federal Rules of Civil Procedure should be scrapped and rewritten.[4]

Judge Kane, did however make a mild concession to the Obama Administration, saying that the question of whether a for-profit business has First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause rights is a question that “merit[s]more deliberate investigation.”[5]

This only shows the unprecedented nature of the HHS mandate.

“This lawsuit seeks to ensure that Washington bureaucrats cannot force families to abandon their faith just to earn a living,” said attorney for the Plaintiffs, Matt Bowman. “Americans don’t want politicians and bureaucrats deciding what faith is, who the faithful are, and where and how that faith may be lived out.” [6]

ObamacareWatcher.org was created to monitor and respond to Obamacare regulations. The HHS mandate is the first Obamacare regulatory policy to receive substantial pushback in the courts.

Earlier this year, we predicted that non-profits would find it difficult to establish standing to sue until closer to August 2013 and that it would be for-profit businesses that would first get to challenge the HHS mandate.
The law is so clear, that we can expect further injunctions against the HHS Mandate in the weeks and months ahead.

Said Bowman, “Every American, including family business owners, should be free to live and do business according to their faith. For the time being, Hercules Industries will be able to do just that.”[7]

[1] Brief in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Newland v. Sebelius, No. 12-cv-01123-JLK (D. Colo. Filed Apr. 30, 2012) at 3 available at http://www.adfmedia.org/files/NewlandPIbrief.pdf.
[2] Id.
[3] News Release, Alliance Defending Freedom, Hercules shows strength, halts Obama abortion pill mandate (July 27, 2012) http://www.adfmedia.org/News/PRDetail/7524.
[4] “Judge John L. Kane Says Civil Justice Overhaul Overdue,” YouTube.com (Uploaded Sep. 24, 2009) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nle9b530YXE.
[5] Order, Newland v. Sebelius, No. 12-cv-01123-JLK (D. Colo. July 27, 2012) at 12 available at http://obamacarewatcher.org/sites/default/files/newlandvsebelius-preliminary-injunction.pdf.
[6] Supra note 3.
[7] Id.