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O'Brien v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 8, 2014

Frank R. O'Brien, Jr.; O'Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC, Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Sylvia Mathews Burwell, in her official capacity as the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services; United States Department of the Treasury; Jacob J. Lew, in his official capacity as the Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury; United States Department of Labor; Thomas E. Perez, in his official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Labor, Defendants - Appellees [1], Catholic Medical Association; Christian Medical Association; Liberty, Life, and Law Foundation; Archdiocese of St. Louis; Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Women Speak for Themselves; Bioethics Defense Fund; Life Legal Defense Foundation; Association of American Physicians & Surgeons; National Catholic Bioethics Center; Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance; American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians & Gynecologists; Physicians for Life; National Association of Pro Life Nurses; Association of Gospel Rescue Missions; Prison Fellowship Ministries; Association of Christian Schools International; National Association of Evangelicals; Patrick Henry College; Christian Legal Society; David M. Wagner; Bradley P. Jacob; Charles E. Rice; Common Good Foundation; Catholic Online, LLC; Common Good Alliance; Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, Amici on Behalf of Appellants, National Health Law Program; Americans United For Separation of Church and State; the Center for Reproductive Rights; American Public Health Association; Guttmacher Institute; National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association; National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; National Women's Health Network; Physicians For Reproductive Choice and Health; Professor James Trussell; Professor R. Alta Charo; Professor Susan F. Wood; Reproductive Health Technologies Project; American Civil Liberties Union; American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri; Anti-Defamation League; Interfaith Alliance Foundation; Unitarian Universalist Association; Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation; National Council of Jewish Women; Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; Union for Reform Judaism; Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc.; Central Conference of American Rabbis; Women of Reform Judaism; National Women's Law Center, Amici on Behalf of Appellees

Submitted October 24, 2013.

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis.

For Frank R. O'Brien, Jr., O'Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC, Plaintiffs - Appellants: Patrick T. Gilllen, Fidelis Center For Law And Policy, Naples, FL; Francis J. Manion, Geoffrey R. Surtees, American Center For Law & Justice, Midwest Division, New Hope, KY; Edward Lawrence White, American Center For Law And Justice, Ann Arbor, MI.

For U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, in her official capacity as the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, United States Deprtment of the Treasury, Timothy F. Geithner, in his official capacity as the Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury, United States Department of Labor, Hilda L. Solis, in her official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Labor, Defendants - Appellees: Michelle R. Bennett, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC; Adam C. Jed, Alisa Beth Klein, Mark B. Stern, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Appellate Staff, Washington, DC.

For National Health Law Program, Amicus on Behalf of Appellee(s): Martha Jane Perkins, National Health Law Program, Carrboro, NC.

For Americans United For Separation of Church and State, Amicus on Behalf of Appellee(s): Benjamin N. Hazelwood, Ayesha N. Khan, Gregory M. Lipper, Americans United For Separation of Church & State, Washington, DC.

For The Center for Reproductive Rights, American Public Health Association, Guttmacher Institute, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National Women's Health Network, Physicians For Reproductive Choice and Health, Professor James Trussell, Professor R. Alta Charo, Professor Susan F. Wood, Reproductive Health Technologies Project, Amici on Behalf of Appellee(s): Lisa Schiavo Blatt, Arnold & Porter, Washington, DC.

For American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, Anti-Defamation League, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, Unitarian Universalist Association, Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation, National Council of Jewish Women, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc., Amici on Behalf of Appellee(s): Anthony E. Rothert, American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Foundation, Saint Louis, MO.

For Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Women of Reform Judaism, Amici on Behalf of Appellee(s): Benjamin N. Hazelwood, Ayesha N. Khan, Gregory M. Lipper, Americans United For Separation of Church & State, Washington, DC.

For National Women's Law Center, Amicus on Behalf of Appellee(s): Gretchen Borchelt, Marcia D. Greenberger, Emily J. Martin, Judith G. Waxman, Washington, DC; Charles E. Davidow, Andree J. Goldsmith, Ilana D. Waxman, Paul & Weiss, Washington, DC.

For Catholic Medical Association, Christian Medical Association, Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, National Catholic Bioethics Center, American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Physicians for Life, National Association of Pro Life Nurses, Amici on Behalf of Appellant(s): Mailee R. Smith, Americans United For Life, Washington, DC.

For Liberty, Life, and Law Foundation, Amicus on Behalf of Appellant(s): Deborah Jane Dewart, Swansboro, NC.

For Archdiocese of St. Louis, Amicus on Behalf of Appellant(s): Noel Francisco, Jones & Day, Washington, DC.

For Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, Prison Fellowship Ministries, Association of Christian Schools International, National Association of Evangelicals, Patrick Henry College, Christian Legal Society, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, Amici on Behalf of Appellant(s): Kimberlee Wood Colby, Christian Legal Society, Springfield, VA.

For Women Speak for Themselves, Bioethics Defense Fund, Life Legal Defense Foundation, Amici on Behalf of Appellant(s): Dorinda Bordlee, Bioethics Defense Fund, Metairie, LA.

For David M. Wagner, Bradley P. Jacob, Charles E. Rice, Common Good Foundation, Catholic Online, LLC, Common Good Alliance, Amici on Behalf of Appellant(s): Steven W. Fitschen, National Legal Foundation, Virginia Beach, VA.

Before RILEY, Chief Judge, COLLOTON and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 863

PER CURIAM.

In light of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 573 U.S. __, __, 134 S.Ct. 2751, 2785 (2014), the appellants' complaint submits a facially plausible claim for relief under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1(a) to (c). See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). It thus appears unnecessary to address the appellants' remaining claims, see Hobby Lobby, 573 U.S. at __, 134 S.Ct. at 2785, and the doctrine of constitutional avoidance particularly counsels us not to give unnecessary answers to constitutional questions, see, e.g., Ashwander v. TVA, 297 U.S. 288, 345-48, 56 S.Ct. 466, 80 L.Ed. 688 (1936) (Brandeis, J., concurring).

We reverse the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) dismissal of the appellants' RFRA claim, vacate the dismissal of the appellants' remaining claims without expressing any view on the merits, and remand for further proceedings consistent with Hobby Lobby.


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