Liberty Univ. Inc. v. Merrill, No. 6:10–cv–00015–nkm.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
Writing for the CourtNORMAN K. MOON, District Judge.
Citation753 F.Supp.2d 611
PartiesLIBERTY UNIVERSITY, INC., a Virginia Nonprofit Corporation, Michele G. Waddell, David Stein, M.D., Joanne V. Merrill, Delegate Kathy Byron, and Jeff Helgeson, Plaintiffs,v.Timothy GEITHNER, Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, in his official capacity, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, in her official capacity, Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of the United States Department of Labor, in her official capacity, and Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, in his official capacity, Defendants.
Decision Date30 November 2010
Docket NumberNo. 6:10–cv–00015–nkm.

753 F.Supp.2d 611

LIBERTY UNIVERSITY, INC., a Virginia Nonprofit Corporation, Michele G. Waddell, David Stein, M.D., Joanne
v.
Merrill, Delegate Kathy Byron, and Jeff Helgeson, Plaintiffs,
v.
Timothy GEITHNER, Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, in his official capacity, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, in her official capacity, Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of the United States Department of Labor, in her official capacity, and Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, in his official capacity, Defendants.

No. 6:10–cv–00015–nkm.

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia,Lynchburg Division.

Nov. 30, 2010.


[753 F.Supp.2d 617]

Anita L. Staver, Mathew D. Staver, Liberty Counsel, Orlando, FL, Mary Elizabeth McAlister, Liberty Counsel, William Edward McRorie, Law Office of William McRorie, Lynchburg, VA, for Plaintiffs.Ethan Price Davis, United States Department of Justice, Joel L. McElvain, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Federal Programs Branch, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

[753 F.Supp.2d 618]

MEMORANDUM OPINION

NORMAN K. MOON, District Judge.

On the day the President signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009, Plaintiffs filed this action, contesting the law's validity on constitutional and statutory grounds. Defendants (several government officials named in their official capacities) moved to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. The parties' arguments have been fully briefed and heard, and for the reasons stated in this memorandum, I will grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (docket no. 25).

I. Background

Plaintiffs Liberty University, Inc., Michele G. Waddell, David Stein, M.D., Joanne V. Merrill, Delegate Kathy Byron, and Council Member Jeff Helgeson (collectively “Plaintiffs”) challenge the legality of certain provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111–148, 124 Stat. 119 (Mar. 23, 2010), as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111–152, 124 Stat. 1029 (Mar. 30, 2010) (collectively, the “Act”). Plaintiffs seek a declaration that the Act is unconstitutional and invalid and an order enjoining its enforcement. Defendants in this action are the following government officials, named in their official capacities: Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury; Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services; Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of the United States Department of Labor; and Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States. This is not the first judicial ruling on a challenge to the Act.1

The Act institutes numerous reforms to the national health care market. It removes many barriers to insurance coverage,2 supplies federal funds and expands Medicaid to assist the poor with obtaining coverage,3 and encourages small businesses to purchase health insurance for their employees through tax incentives.4 It creates health benefit exchanges, which are established and operated by states to serve as marketplaces where informed individuals and small businesses can enroll in health plans after comparing their features. See Act § 1311. The Act also requires certain large employers to offer health insurance to their employees and requires all individuals who do not meet a statutory exemption to purchase and maintain health insurance. Plaintiffs challenge these mandatory coverage provisions.

The “Shared Responsibility for Employers” provision of the Act, § 1513 (adding 26 U.S.C. § 4980H) (hereinafter “employer coverage provision” or “employer coverage requirement”), regulates the level and

[753 F.Supp.2d 619]

quality of health coverage that large employers provide to their employees. It provides that if an “applicable large employer ... fails to offer to its full-time employees (and their dependents) the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage under an eligible employer-sponsored plan ... for any month” and at least one full-time employee receives a “premium tax credit or cost-sharing reduction” through a health benefit exchange, then a civil fine is imposed on the employer. Act § 1513(a), (d). An “applicable large employer” is one who employs fifty or more full-time employees on average over a calendar year. Act § 1513(c)(2). The employer coverage provision goes into effect in 2014. Act § 1513(d).

According to the “Requirement to Maintain Minimum Essential Coverage,” § 1501 (adding 26 U.S.C. § 5000A) (hereinafter “individual coverage provision” or “individual coverage requirement”) every “applicable individual” must obtain “minimum essential coverage” for each month or pay a penalty, which is included with the individual's tax return. Act § 1501(a)-(b). An “applicable individual” is any individual except one who qualifies for a religious exemption, who is not a United States citizen, national, or an alien lawfully present in the United States, or who is incarcerated. Act § 1501(d).5 The individual coverage provision takes effect in 2014. Act § 1501(a).

There are two religious exemptions to the requirement that individuals maintain minimum essential coverage. First, the “Religious conscience exemption” applies to an individual who “is a member of a recognized religious sect or division thereof described in section 1402(g)(1) and an adherent of established tenets or teachings of such sect or division as described in such section.” Act § 1501(d)(2)(A). Section 1402(g)(1) exempts from the Internal Revenue Code any “member of a recognized religious sect or division thereof [who] is an adherent of established tenets or teachings of such sect or division by reason of which he is conscientiously opposed to acceptance of the benefits of any private or public insurance” which insures death, disability, retirement, or health care costs. 26 U.S.C. § 1402(g)(1). Second, the “Health care sharing ministry” exemption applies to a member of a 501(c)(3) organization, which has been in existence at all times since December 31, 1999, the members of which share a common set of ethical or religious beliefs, share medical expenses in accordance with those beliefs, and retain membership even after developing a medical condition. Act § 1501(d)(2)(B).

Plaintiffs state that they are a Christian organization and Christian individuals holding religious beliefs that most or all forms of abortion are immoral (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 72), and they claim that the Act does not protect against the mandatory insurance payments being used to fund abortion coverage. The Act explicitly states that no plan is required to cover any form of abortion services. Act § 1303(b)(1)(A)(1). In every state health benefit exchange, there must be offered at least one plan that does not provide coverage of non-excepted abortion services, § 1334(a)(6), which, under current law, are any type of abortion services except in

[753 F.Supp.2d 620]

cases of rape or incest or where the life of the woman is endangered, Exec. Order No. 13,535 of Mar. 24, 2010, 75 Fed. Reg. 15,599 (Mar. 29, 2010). Any state may pass a law prohibiting health plans offered through that state's health benefit exchange from covering any form of abortion services. Act § 1303(a)(1).

Plaintiffs allege that the employer and individual coverage provisions are beyond Congress' Article I powers (Count One), violate the Tenth Amendment (Count Two), violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment (Count Three), violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment (Count Four), violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Count Five), violate the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment (Count Six), violate the right to free speech and free association under the First Amendment (Count Seven), violate the Article I, Section 9 prohibition against unapportioned capitation or direct taxes (Count Eight), and violate the Guarantee Clause (Count Nine). Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims in their entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6). Defendants argue that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear their claims because Plaintiffs do not have standing, the issues are unripe, and the Anti–Injunction Act withdraws jurisdiction over their suit. If jurisdiction is found, Defendants argue that all of the counts should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

II. Applicable Law
A. Rule 12(b)(1), Subject Matter Jurisdiction

On a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists. Piney Run Pres. Ass'n v. County Comm'rs, 523 F.3d 453, 459 (4th Cir.2008). In considering the motion, a court must accept as true all material factual allegations in the complaint and must construe the complaint in favor of the plaintiff. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975). A court should “regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir.1999). The moving party's motion to dismiss should be granted when “the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.” Id.

B. Rule 12(b)(6), Failure to State a Claim

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint to determine whether the plaintiff has properly stated a claim; “it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir.1992). Although a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief...

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16 practice notes
  • State v. United States Dep't of Health, Nos. 11–11021
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • August 12, 2011
    ...mandate is a penalty, “agree [ing] with the thoughtful and careful analysis of Judge Vinson”); Liberty Univ., Inc. v. Geithner, 753 F.Supp.2d 611, 629 (W.D.Va.2010) (“After considering the prevailing case law, I conclude that the better characterization of the exactions imposed under the Ac......
  • Bilbro v. Haley, C/A No. 3:16–767–JFA
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • January 19, 2017
    ...of Plaintiff's proposed complaint are remarkably similar to the first amended complaint filed in Liberty University, Inc. v. Geithner , 753 F.Supp.2d 611 (W.D. Va. 2010), which is a readily distinguishable case from the one before this Court as the Affordable Care Act and Reconciliation Act......
  • Goudy–bachman v. United States Dep't of Health, Civil Action No. 1:10–CV–763.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • January 24, 2011
    ...rooted in some remote contingency, but on a law with manifest budgetary implications in 2014. See Liberty University, Inc. v. Geithner, 753 F.Supp.2d 611, 623 (W.D.Va.2010) (finding that “[t]he present or near-future costs of complying with a statute that has not yet gone into effect can be......
  • State v. United States Dep't of Health, Case No. 3:10–cv–91–RV/EMT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • January 31, 2011
    ...on the merits. Two have held that the individual mandate is a proper exercise of the commerce power [ Liberty Univ., Inc. v. Geithner, 753 F.Supp.2d 611, 2010 WL 4860299 (W.D.Va. Nov. 30, 2010); Thomas More Law Center v. Obama, 720 F.Supp.2d 882 (E.D.Mich.2010) ], while the other court held......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
16 cases
  • State v. United States Dep't of Health, Nos. 11–11021
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • August 12, 2011
    ...mandate is a penalty, “agree [ing] with the thoughtful and careful analysis of Judge Vinson”); Liberty Univ., Inc. v. Geithner, 753 F.Supp.2d 611, 629 (W.D.Va.2010) (“After considering the prevailing case law, I conclude that the better characterization of the exactions imposed under the Ac......
  • Bilbro v. Haley, C/A No. 3:16–767–JFA
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • January 19, 2017
    ...of Plaintiff's proposed complaint are remarkably similar to the first amended complaint filed in Liberty University, Inc. v. Geithner , 753 F.Supp.2d 611 (W.D. Va. 2010), which is a readily distinguishable case from the one before this Court as the Affordable Care Act and Reconciliation Act......
  • Goudy–bachman v. United States Dep't of Health, Civil Action No. 1:10–CV–763.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • January 24, 2011
    ...rooted in some remote contingency, but on a law with manifest budgetary implications in 2014. See Liberty University, Inc. v. Geithner, 753 F.Supp.2d 611, 623 (W.D.Va.2010) (finding that “[t]he present or near-future costs of complying with a statute that has not yet gone into effect can be......
  • State v. United States Dep't of Health, Case No. 3:10–cv–91–RV/EMT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • January 31, 2011
    ...on the merits. Two have held that the individual mandate is a proper exercise of the commerce power [ Liberty Univ., Inc. v. Geithner, 753 F.Supp.2d 611, 2010 WL 4860299 (W.D.Va. Nov. 30, 2010); Thomas More Law Center v. Obama, 720 F.Supp.2d 882 (E.D.Mich.2010) ], while the other court held......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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