Cutler v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs.

Citation52 F.Supp.3d 27
Decision Date25 June 2014
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 13–2066 CKK
PartiesJeffrey Cutler, Plaintiff, v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al., Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)

Jeffrey Cutler, York, PA, pro se.

Daniel Schwei, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Defendant.


COLLEEN KOLLAR–KOTELLY, United States District Judge

Plaintiff Jeffrey Cutler brings this action against Defendants the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Matthews Burwell, in her official capacity as Secretary of Health and Human Services,1 United States Department of Treasury, and Jacob Lew, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Treasury (collectively Defendants), asserting claims that Congress exceeded its authority under the Commerce Clause when enacting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care Act or the Act), that the Act violates the First Amendment, and that the Act has been impermissibly altered since its enactment. Currently before the Court is Defendants' [9] Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff's [12] Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, and Plaintiff's [18] Renewed Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Upon consideration of the pleadings,2 the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court GRANTS Defendants' [9] Motion to Dismiss. Given its ruling on the Motion to Dismiss, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's [12] Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and DENIES Plaintiff's [18] Renewed Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.

A. Statutory Background

In 2010, Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act, Pub.L. No. 111–148, 124 Stat. 119 (2010). Compl. ¶ 1. The purpose of the Act was to “increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance and decrease the cost of health care.” Nat'l Fed'n of Indep. Bus. v. Sebelius, ––– U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 2566, 2580, 183 L.Ed.2d 450 (2012). A portion of the Act, commonly known as the “individual mandate,” requires all nonexempt United States citizens to either obtain “minimal essential” health insurance coverage as defined in the Act or pay a penalty. Compl. ¶ 1; see also 26 U.S.C. § 5000A (2010). The Act provides certain exemptions to the individual mandate, including one for persons certified as members of an exempt religion or sect, and for members of a health care sharing ministry. Compl. ¶ 1; see also 26 U.S.C. § 5000A(d)(2) (2010).

B. Factual Background

The following facts are taken from the Plaintiff's Complaint and must be accepted as true for purposes of a motion to dismiss. See Atherton v. D.C. Office of the Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681 (D.C.Cir.2009). Plaintiff is a citizen of the United States and a permanent resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Compl. ¶ 5. In November 2013, Plaintiff won a municipal election in East Lampeter Township, Pennsylvania, and will serve a 4–year term as a result. Id. Plaintiff is “lawfully bound to uphold the laws of Pennsylvania, and the United States Government.” Id. Plaintiff's annual income is such that he is required to file federal tax returns. Id. Plaintiff is subject to the individual mandate of the Act and cannot claim any exemptions. Id. ¶ 15. Specifically, Plaintiff is non-observant in his religion and cannot claim a religious exemption from the individual mandate pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 5000A(d)(2). Id. ¶ 5.

Plaintiff's health insurance was canceled “due to the changes specified by regulations that altered the law as approved.” Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiff currently is not covered under a plan that meets the requirements of minimal essential coverage. Id. ¶ 15. Plaintiff can afford health insurance however, Plaintiff does not “wish[ ] to be mandated to be covered.” Id. ¶¶ 5, 15. On January 1, 2014 or at “some other date as altered by decree,” Plaintiff will incur penalties for failing to maintain minimum essential coverage. Id. ¶ 16.

C. Procedural History

On December 31, 2013, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants in this Court. Plaintiff argues that the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional on its face and as applied to him and his constituents. Plaintiff asserts three specific claims in his Complaint: (1) Congress does not have the authority to enact the individual mandate or provide the religious exemption under its Commerce Clause powers, Compl. ¶¶ 30–33; (2) the religious exemption to the individual mandate violates the First Amendment by favoring one religion over another and allowing the government to certify who qualifies for the exemption based on religion, Compl. ¶¶ 1, 30, 32, 33; and (3) alterations to the Act since its passage violate 42 U.S.C. § 18112, Compl. at 11.

Accordingly, Plaintiff requests that the Court issue a declaratory judgment that the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act exceeds Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause, Art. I, § 8, cl. 3. Compl. at 10–11. Plaintiff also requests a declaratory judgment that the entirety of the Affordable Care Act is invalid because the individual mandate is an integral component of the Act. Id. 11. Plaintiff also seeks a permanent injunction enjoining Defendants and their agents, representatives and employees from giving effect to the Affordable Care Act, because the government's alterations to the law violate 14 U.S.C. § 18112. Id.

In response to this Complaint, Defendants filed their [9] Motion to Dismiss, contending that Plaintiff lacks Article III standing to bring this Complaint and contending that Plaintiff failed to state a viable Establishment Clause claim.

In addition to the Complaint, Plaintiff filed his [12] Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, requesting that the Court enter a permanent injunction enjoining Defendants from enforcing the Affordable Care Act, and delay all parts of the Act that have an effective date of January 1, 2014, or later, because the Act violates the Equal Protection Clause.3 Plaintiff also filed a [18] Renewed Motion for Partial Summary Judgment with his response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

A. Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1)

To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over its claim. Moms Against Mercury v. FDA, 483 F.3d 824, 828 (D.C.Cir.2007). In determining whether there is jurisdiction, the Court may “consider the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.” Coal. for Underground Expansion v. Mineta, 333 F.3d 193, 198 (D.C.Cir.2003) (citations omitted). “At the motion to dismiss stage, counseled complaints, as well as pro se complaints, are to be construed with sufficient liberality to afford all possible inferences favorable to the pleader on allegations of fact.” Settles v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 429 F.3d 1098, 1106 (D.C.Cir.2005). “Although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint when reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1),” the factual allegations in the complaint “will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim.” Wright v. Foreign Serv. Grievance Bd., 503 F.Supp.2d 163, 170 (D.D.C.2007) (citations omitted).

B. Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)

Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) requires that a complaint contain ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,’ in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’ Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957) ); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam ). Although “detailed factual allegations” are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, to provide the “grounds” of “entitle[ment] to relief,” a plaintiff must furnish “more than labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Id. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955. [A] complaint [does not] suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion [s] devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’ Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ). Rather, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937.

In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and must accept as true all reasonable factual inferences drawn from well-pleaded factual allegations. In re United Mine Workers of Am. Employee Benefit Plans Litig., 854 F.Supp. 914, 915 (D.D.C.1994). Further, the Court is limited to considering the facts alleged in the complaint, any documents attached to or incorporated in the complaint, matters of which the court may take judicial notice, and matters of public record.See EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C.Cir.1997). “This includes documents ... that are referred to in the complaint and [ ] central to the plaintiff's claim.” Long v. Safeway, Inc., 842 F.Supp.2d 141, 144 (D.D.C.2012) (internal alteration and citation omitted).

A. Article III Standing

“To satisfy the requirements of Article III standing in a case challenging government action, a party must allege an injury in fact that is fairly traceable to the challenged government...

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  • Cutler v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., Civil Action No. 13–2066 (CKK)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • June 25, 2014
    ...52 F.Supp.3d 27Jeffrey Cutler, Plaintiff,v.United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al., Defendants.Civil Action No. 13–2066 (CKK)United States District Court, District of Columbia.Signed June 25, [52 F.Supp.3d 29]Jeffrey Cutler, York, PA, pro se.Daniel Schwei, U.S. Departm......

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