Zubik v. Burwell - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 5-23-16 featuring Roger Severino
Roger Severino May 23, 2016

On May 16, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Zubik v. Burwell, the lead case in a consolidated series, with the other petitioners including Priests for Life, Southern Nazarene University, Geneva College, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, East Texas Baptist University, and Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) requires that group health plans and health insurance issuers provide coverage for women’s “preventative care,” or face financial penalties. Although the ACA does not define preventative care, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), relying on the Institute of Medicine, determined that the term encompassed, among other things, all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, including drugs and devices that could induce an abortion. Federal regulations require petitioners to cover these contraceptives as part of their health plans, unless petitioners submit a form either to their insurer or to the Federal Government, stating that they object on religious grounds to providing contraceptive coverage. Petitioners resisted, asserting that submitting the notice substantially burdened the exercise of their religion, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. The ensuing litigation yielded different outcomes in different U.S. Courts of Appeals, and the Supreme Court granted certiorari. Following oral argument, the Court requested supplemental briefing from the parties addressing “whether contraceptive coverage could be provided to petitioners’ employees, through petitioners’ insurance companies, without any such notice from petitioners.” 

After receiving the supplemental briefs the Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the Courts of Appeals by a vote of 8-0 and remanded the cases to the Third, Fifth, Tenth, and D.C. Circuits, respectively. The Court’s per curiam opinion explained that “‘the parties on remand should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.’” Furthermore, the Court indicated it was expressing no view on the merits of the cases and stated that “nothing in this opinion, or in the opinions or orders of the courts below, is to affect the ability of the Government to ensure that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘obtain, without cost, the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives.’" At the same time, the Court noted, throughout this litigation, petitioners had made the Government aware of their view that they meet “the requirements for exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement on religious grounds” and nothing in the Court’s opinion, or in the opinions or orders of the courts below, “precludes the Government from relying on this notice, to the extent it considers it necessary, to facilitate the provision of full contraceptive coverage going forward.” And because the Government may rely on this notice, the Court indicated, “the Government may not impose taxes or penalties on petitioners for failure to provide the relevant notice.”

Justice Sotomayor issued a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Ginsburg.

To discuss the case, we have Roger Severino, who is Director, DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, The Heritage Foundation.

Address by Senator Dan Sullivan - Event Audio/Video

Fourth Annual Executive Branch Review Conference
Dan Sullivan, Dean A. Reuter May 20, 2016

United States Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska delivered this address during the Fourth Annual Executive Branch Review Conference on May 17, 2016.


  • Hon. Dan Sullivan, United States Senate, Alaska
  • Introduction: Mr. Dean A. Reuter, Vice President & Director of Practice Groups, The Federalist Society

The Mayflower Hotel
Washington, DC

Disparate Impact: Reducing Innovation in the Workplace? - Event Audio/Video

Fourth Annual Executive Branch Review Conference
Gail Heriot, James P. Scanlan, James Sharf, John S. Irving May 20, 2016

The slogan "Personnel is policy" reflects the principle that hiring the right people is one of the most important things that employers do. An employer with an innovative approach to bringing on board the best people has a critical edge over her competition. But the rise of interpretations of federal employment law that basically give the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") veto power over nearly any employment decision means that many creative ideas about hiring will be stillborn. Notably, the EEOC interprets federal civil rights law not just to prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, and age, but also on practices that have a "disparate impact" on members of such groups even if the practice is not actually discriminatory.  Because virtually any job qualification has a disparate impact on members of some such group, this interpretation confers extraordinary powers on the EEOC. Disparate impact is widely believed to have led many employers to abandon paper and pencil tests of cognitive ability. More recently, employers have been discouraged from using the Internet to recruit because racial minorities were thought to lack access to the internet relative to members of other racial and ethnic groups. Further, the EEOC also has put pressure on employers to abandon the use of credit and criminal background checks because of their alleged disparate impact on  racial minorities. This panel will discuss how the metastasis of disparate impact has strangled innovative hiring strategies in these areas as well as others and other perverse consequences of disparate impact's growth.

This panel was presented during the Fourth Annual Executive Branch Review Conference on May 17, 2016, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.


  • Hon. Gail Heriot, United States Commission on Civil Rights, and Professor of Law, University of San Diego School of Law
  • Mr. James Scanlan, Attorney at Law
  • Mr. James Sharf, Sharf & Associates
  • Moderator: Mr. John Irving, Of Counsel, Kirkland & Ellis

The Mayflower Hotel
Washington, DC

House of Representatives Wins Round One of Obamacare Challenge: U.S. House of Representatives v. Burwell - Podcast

Administrative Law & Regulation Practice Group Podcast
Josh Blackman May 20, 2016

On Thursday, May 12, a United States District Court Judge upheld a constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act by finding that the monies for two programs that reimburse insurance companies for providing health coverage at lower costs to low-income consumers and provide tax credits to help these consumers afford their premiums were never appropriated by Congress, and that the programs were thus unconstitutional. Judge Rosemary M. Collyer stayed her decision pending appeal. Our expert discussed the opinion as well as its outlook on appeal.


  • Prof. Josh Blackman, Assistant Professor of Law, South Texas College of Law

Are Patents Under Attack in the Supreme Court? - Event Audio/Video

Fourth Annual Executive Branch Review Conference
John F. Duffy, Michael R. Huston, Adam Mossoff, Jeffrey B. Wall, Randall R. Rader May 20, 2016

As Congress debates controversial patent legislation that some say will undermine patent rights, has the U.S. Supreme Court been steadily eroding the scope and enforceability of patents for the past decade?  The Supreme Court has made it easier to invalidate patents because an invention is “obvious,” not specific enough, or an “abstract idea.”   The Court has also made it more difficult for patent owners to stop or “enjoin” ongoing infringement of their rights and riskier to assert their rights in court. Is the Supreme Court striking the right balance or is it undermining an important property right?

This panel was presented during the Fourth Annual Executive Branch Review Conference on May 17, 2016, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.


  • Prof. John F. Duffy, Samuel H. McCoy II Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Mr. Michael R. Huston, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
  • Prof. Adam Mossoff, Professor of Law and Co-Director of Academic Programs and Senior Scholar, Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
  • Mr. Jeff Wall, Sullivan & Cromwell
  • Moderator: Hon. Randall R. Rader, The George Washington University

The Mayflower Hotel
Washington, DC