As reported today by Reuters, the Supreme Court has decided not to give an early review to the cases brought by Priests for Life and other Catholic groups (including the Archdiocese of Washington, Catholic University of America, and Thomas Aquinas College) against the HHS mandate, the federal mandate requiring employers to cover contraception and abortion-inducing drugs and devices in employee insurance plans.
The groups, whose cases are currently in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, made use of a special provision that allows an appeal to the Supreme Court, even while the case is in a lower court, provided the “case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this Court” (Sup. Ct. R. 11).
The Supreme Court’s decision not to grant early review simply means that the cases will proceed, without prejudice, in the lower federal court. Either the plaintiffs or the defendants may later seek a Supreme Court review, after the outcome.
The oral arguments will take place on May 8, and that this will likely be the first oral argument before a federal appellate court on the merits of the case that the religious non-profits are bringing against the HHS mandate.
Robert Muise, co-founder and chief counsel at the American Freedom Law Center, and general counsel for Priests for Life, stated, “This case with Priests for Life is the lead case for the non-profit religious organizations challenging the mandate similar to how Hobby Lobby is the lead case for the for-profit companies challenging the HHS mandate.”
Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, stated, “We are working with our attorneys to present the strongest possible case to the Court of Appeals, and at the same time are urging the public to stand with us, just as they are standing with Hobby Lobby. We will certainly appeal to the Supreme Court if the lower court does not rule in our favor. Moreover, no matter what any court says at any time, we will disobey this mandate. It is unjust, immoral, and intolerable.”