Zubik v. Burwell,
578 U.S. ___ (2016)

Annotate this Case

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

_________________

Nos. 14–1418, 14–1453, 14–1505, 15–35, 15–105, 15–119, and 15–191

_________________

DAVID A. ZUBIK, et al., PETITIONERS

14–1418v.

SYLVIA BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH ANDHUMAN SERVICES, et al.;

on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the third circuit

PRIESTS FOR LIFE, et al., PETITIONERS

14–1453v.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMANSERVICES, et al.;

on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the district of columbia circuit

ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF WASHINGTON, et al., PETITIONERS

14–1505v.

SYLVIA BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTHAND HUMAN SERVICES, et al.;

on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the district of columbia circuit

EAST TEXAS BAPTIST UNIVERSITY, et al., PETITIONERS

15–35v.

SYLVIA BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH ANDHUMAN SERVICES, et al.;

on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fifth circuit

LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR HOME FORTHE AGED, DENVER, COLORADO, et al., PETITIONERS

15–105v.

SYLVIA BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH ANDHUMAN SERVICES, et al.;

on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the tenth circuit

SOUTHERN NAZARENE UNIVERSITY, et al., PETITIONERS

15–119v.

SYLVIA BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH ANDHUMAN SERVICES, et al.; AND

on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the tenth circuit

GENEVA COLLEGE, PETITIONER

15–191v.

SYLVIA BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH ANDHUMAN SERVICES, et al.

on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the third circuit

[May 16, 2016]

Justice Sotomayor, with whom Justice Ginsburg joins, concurring.

I join the Court’s per curiam opinion because it expresses no view on “the merits of the cases,” “whether petition-ers’ religious exercise has been substantially burdened,” or “whether the current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving” a compelling governmental interest. Ante, at 4–5. Lower courts, therefore, should not construe either today’s per curiam or our order of March 29, 2016, as signals of where this Court stands. We have included similarly explicit disclaimers in previous orders. See, e.g., Wheaton College v. Burwell, 573 U. S. ___ (2014) (“[T]his order should not be construed as an expression of the Court’s views on the merits”). Yet some lower courts have ignored those instructions. See, e.g., Sharpe Holdings, Inc., v. Department of Health and Human Servs., 801 F. 3d 927, 944 (CA8 2015) (“[I]n Wheaton College, Little Sisters of the Poor, and Zubik, the Supreme Court approved a method of notice to HHS that is arguably less onerous than [existing regulations] yet permits the government to further its interests. Although the Court’s orders were not final rulings on the merits, they at the very least collectively constitute a signal that less restrictive means exist by which the government may further its interests”). On remand in these cases, the Courts of Appeals should not make the same mistake.

I also join the Court’s opinion because it allows the lower courts to consider only whether existing or modified regulations could provide seamless contraceptive coverage “ ‘to petitioners’ employees, through petitioners’ insurance companies, without any . . . notice from petitioners.’ ” Ante, at 3. The opinion does not, by contrast, endorse the petitioners’ position that the existing regulations substantially burden their religious exercise or that contraceptive coverage must be provided through a “separate policy, with a separate enrollment process.” Supp. Brief for Petitioners 1; Supp. Reply Brief for Petitioners 5. Such separate contraceptive-only policies do not currently exist, and the Government has laid out a number of legal and practical obstacles to their creation. See Supp. Reply Brief for Respondents 3–4. Requiring standalone contraceptive-only coverage would leave in limbo all of the women now guaranteed seamless preventive-care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. And requiring that women affirmatively opt into such coverage would “impose precisely the kind of barrier to the delivery of preventive services that Congress sought to eliminate.” Id., at 6.

Today’s opinion does only what it says it does: “afford[s] an opportunity” for the parties and Courts of Appeals to reconsider the parties’ arguments in light of petitioners’ new articulation of their religious objection and the Government’s clarification about what the existing regulations accomplish, how they might be amended, and what such an amendment would sacrifice. Ante, at 4. As enlightened by the parties’ new submissions, the Courts of Appeals remain free to reach the same conclusion or a different one on each of the questions presented by these cases.

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.