Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius Shows Majority of Circuit Courts Favor Contraceptive Rule


On Thursday, the Third Circuit denied a for-profit company's motion for injunctive relief against the Obamacare contraception rule in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius. While a ruling on a motion for injunctive relief is not a ruling on the constitutional merits of the legal challenge, it shows which side the judges are likely to favor in the full appeal.

The Third Circuit is now the third circuit court to deny injunctive relief to a for-profit company that has legally challenged the constitutionality of the contraceptive rule.  The Tenth Circuit in Hobby Lobby and the Sixth Circuit in Autocam Corporation have denied similar motions in the past few months. With the Eighth Circuit in O'Brien and Annex Medical and the Seventh Circuit in Korte and Grote granting motions for injunctive relief pending appeal, Thursday's decision in Conestoga resolves the circuit court split in Obamacare's favor.

Circuit Justice Marjorie Rendell's majority opinion argues that the Plaintiffs, the Mennonite owners of a wood cabinet manufacturing company, are unlikely to suceed in their challenege of the provision of the ACA that requires businesses with 50 or more employees to provide no-cost coverage of contraception in their health insurance plan. 

Interestingly, Circuit Justice Leonard Garth wrote a strongly worded concurring opinion. Justice Garth is known to be a conservative judge, and Supreme Court Justice Alito clerked for Garth in his first job out of law school.

21 cases brought by for-profit companies against the contraceptive rule have been filed in federal courts around the country. 11 of these companies have acquired court-ordered injunctions against the rule from district or circuit courts.