Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Azar

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 12, 2019

MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE, Plaintiff,
v.
ALEX M. AZAR II, Secretary of Health and Human Services, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case involves the challenge by the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore (“Baltimore City” or “the City”) to a rule promulgated by the United States Department of Health and Human Services that would amend federal regulations with respect to the funding of family planning services. It is one of multiple cases across the nation that initially sought to enjoin the Government from putting into effect certain provisions of the Health and Human Services Final Rule that was scheduled to go into effect on May 3, 2019. Specifically, Baltimore City brings a ten-Count Complaint pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”) against Alex M. Azar II, in his official capacity as the Secretary of Health and Human Services; United States Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”); Diane Foley, M.D., in her official capacity as the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Population Affairs; and Office of Population Affairs (collectively, “Defendants” or “the Government”). (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Baltimore City challenges the final rule (“Final Rule”) entitled Compliance with Statutory Program Integrity Requirements, 84 Fed. Reg. 7, 714 (Mar. 4, 2019), to be codified at 42 C.F.R. Part 59. The Final Rule amends the regulations developed to administer Title X of the Public Health Service Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 300 to 300a-6, which provides federal funding for family-planning services. (Id. at ¶¶ 1, 3.)

         Currently pending before this Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 67). The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion shall be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Specifically, Count IV - Violation of APA § 706-Contrary to Law-Contrary to Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (“RFRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1(a) shall be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, and Count X - Violation of APA-Contrary to Constitutional Right-Unconstitutionally Vague shall be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. As to Count IV, the City has made only conclusory statements with no support to indicate how any religious belief is being substantially burdened by the Final Rule. As to Count X, the Complaint does not provide sufficient allegations that this regulation is unconstitutionally vague. The remaining Counts I, II, III, V, VI, VII, VIII, and IX shall proceed on the merits.

         BACKGROUND

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, this Court “accept[s] as true all well-pleaded facts in a complaint and construe[s] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Wikimedia Found. v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, 857 F.3d 193, 208 (4th Cir. 2017) (citing SD3, LLC v. Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc., 801 F.3d 412, 422 (4th Cir. 2015)). The background of this case was discussed at length in this Court's prior Memorandum Opinion of May 30, 2019, in which this Court granted Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction.[1] (See Mem. Op., ECF No. 43.) In brief, Congress enacted Title X almost fifty years ago, in 1970, to address low-income individuals' lack of equal access to family planning services. (Compl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 1.) The federal grant program has been providing $1, 430, 000 each year to the City of Baltimore and serves over 16, 000 patients per year at 23 sites in the City. (Id. at ¶ 1.) Earlier this year, on March 4, 2019, HHS published the Final Rule in the Federal Register amending the regulations developed to administer Title X. (Id. at ¶ 3.) The City alleges that the Final Rule's effects will irreparably harm the City and its residents. (Id. at ¶ 4.)

         Two aspects of the Final Rule are the most important: (1) the “Gag Rule” that prohibits health professionals from providing their patients with abortion referral information even if patients directly request it, violating the basic tenets of medical ethics and undermining patients' trust in the patient-provider relationship; and (2) the Separation Requirement, which requires that all abortion services, and any medical services not complying with the Gag Rule, be physically separated from clinics that provide Title X services. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-13.) The deadline for physical separation is March 4, 2020.

         Baltimore City filed this lawsuit on April 12, 2019 asserting ten causes of action:

• I - Violation of Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. § 706- Contrary to Law-Contrary to Affordable Care Act (“ACA”)'s Non-Interference Provision, 42 U.S.C. § 18114.
• II - Violation of APA § 706-Contrary to Law-Contrary to Nondirective Mandate of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018
• III - Violation of APA § 706-Contrary to Law-Contrary to Tile X, 42 U.S.C. §§ 300(a), 300a(a)
• IV - Violation of APA § 706-Contrary to Law-Contrary to Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (“RFRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1(a).
• V - Violation of APA § 706-Contrary to Constitutional Right-First Amendment
• VI - Violation of APA-Contrary to Constitutional Right-Equal Protection Under Fifth Amendment
• VII - Violation of APA-Arbitrary and Capricious-Inadequately Justified
• VIII - Violation of APA-Arbitrary and Capricious-Objectively Unreasonable
• IX - Violation of APA-Without Observance of Procedure Required by Law
• X - Violation of APA-Contrary to Constitutional Right-Unconstitutionally Vague

         Baltimore City also filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 11), which this Court granted on May 30, 2019, enjoining enforcement of the Final Rule in the State of Maryland. (See Mem. Op., ECF No. 43.) Thereafter, the Government filed its Notice of Interlocutory Appeal (ECF No. 48; USCA No. 19-1614) and a Motion to Stay the Injunction Pending Appeal (ECF No. 49). This Court denied the Government's stay motion, but a divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit granted the Government's Motion to Stay the Injunction Pending Appeal. (See ECF Nos. 56, 58.) Therefore, at this time, the preliminary injunction that this Court granted is stayed, and the Title X Final Rule is in effect.[2] Baltimore City filed an Emergency Motion for Rehearing en banc to vacate the stay of injunction, and that motion was denied on September 3, 2019. (See ECF No. 73.) Oral argument on the interlocutory appeal of the preliminary injunction is scheduled for September 18, 2019.

         The Government also filed a Motion to Stay Proceedings Pending Appeal (ECF No. 62) and the pending Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 67). This Court denied the Government's motion to stay proceedings and set an expedited schedule for briefing the dismissal motion. (ECF No. 70.) The dismissal motion is now ripe for decision, and for the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion shall be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Specifically, Count IV - Violation of APA § 706-Contrary to Law-Contrary to Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (“RFRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1(a) shall be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, and Count X - Violation of APA-Contrary to Constitutional Right-Unconstitutionally Vague shall be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. As to Count IV, the City has made only conclusory statements with no support to indicate how any religious belief is being substantially burdened by the Final Rule. As to Count X, the Complaint does not provide sufficient allegations that this regulation is unconstitutionally vague. The remaining Counts I, II, III, V, VI, VII, VIII, and IX shall proceed on the merits.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is “to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006).

         The Supreme Court's opinions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), “require that complaints in civil actions be alleged with greater specificity than previously was required.” Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). In Twombly, the Supreme Court articulated “[t]wo working principles” that courts must employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. First, while a court must accept as true the factual allegations contained in the complaint, the court is not so constrained when the factual allegations are conclusory or devoid of any reference to actual events. United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).

         Second, a complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege “a plausible claim for relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Under the plausibility standard, a complaint must contain “more than labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In making this assessment, a court must “draw on its judicial experience and common sense” to determine whether the pleader has stated a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         The Administrative Procedures Act requires a reviewing court to “hold unlawful and set aside agency action . . . found to be . . . arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.” 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stated that “we must engage in a searching and careful inquiry of the [administrative] record, so that we may consider whether the agency considered the relevant factors and whether a clear error of judgment was made.” Casa De Maryland v. U.S. Dep't ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.