Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, Denver, Colorado v Burwell; Southern Nazarene university v Burwell

Sisters, university and other plaintiffs field suit arguing the opt out provision of rules implementing the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate violated their religious liberty rights. The district court denied a preliminary injunction to Sisters while two other district courts granted injections to university and other plaintiffs. The panel, with one judge dissenting in part, affirmed the denial of Sisters’ motion and reversed the grants to University and others. The panel rejected claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as to group plans and a majority rejected claims as to self-insurance plans because the act of opting out does not trigger, give permission or otherwise make the employer complicit in the provision of contraception as federal law mandates coverage and the opt out allows religious employers a means to transfer the objectionable duty to a third party. The majority noted that the notice provision is similar to that required for conscientious objectors to military service and de minimus administrative tasks have never been held by the Supreme Court to be substantial. The majority also rejected claims under the First Amendment noting the mandate is a generally applicable neutral law which serves the legitimate purposes of public health and gender equality, uses objective criteria adopted from the tax context to rationally exempt churches while requiring affiliated entities to actively seek out accommodation and the opt out communicates opposition to contraception and there is no silencing of Sisters or anyone else on the subject of contraception. The dissent argued that for self-insured entities like University actually cause coverage to come into force as the law does not impose any duty to provide coverage until the opt out notice is sent and entities like University face coercive fines for failure to opt out which is sufficient to state a claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Predator International, Inc. v Gamo Outdoor USA, Inc.

Predator’s attorney appealed a Rule 11 sanction assessed against him. The panel reversed. It first held that it had jurisdiction as the notice of appeal was field before the Federal Circuit was granted exclusive jurisdiction in cases involving patent claims. It held the motion to supplement the complaint with a claim of patent ownership and mend the complaint to reinstate a patent infringement claim complied with Rule of Civil Procedure 15 and the grounds cited by the district court were inadequate because there was no forum shopping as patent claims must be brought in federal court and the ownership issue could be simultaneously brought in state and federal court and the attorney had a factual and legal basis to seek to bring the ownership issues into federal court, there was no prejudicial delay as Predator could have field a new suit and asked to consolidate which would have required the same type of analysis as the motion to supplement and the supposed efficiency of litigating in state court did not materialize because Gamo intervened and expanded the suit to other issues besides ownership and Predator was only required to allege standing not prove it at pleading stage. The case was remanded for further proceedings.

United States v Garcia

Garcia and a codefendant appealed their racketeering conspiracy and firearms convictions. The panel affirmed. It held there was no Brady violation because a witness’s promise of leniency for testifying in a different state case could not induce embellishment in Garcia’s case and the witness’s incentives to lie were covered in cross examination. It held there was no clear error in the district court’s conclusion that witnesses omitting certain meetings between law enforcement and a witness were not perjury as the questioning of one the law enforcement witness was imprecise and the accomplice merely forgot about the meetings. The panel rejected a jury instruction argument and a challenge to convictions for racketeering violence noting Garcia’s gang dealt drugs and thus the minimal effect on interstate commerce instruction was correct and the convictions were proper. The panel held that while a gang expert witness made several statements that merely parroted what other people said, admission of the evidence was harmless as it was cumulative to other properly admitted testimony about Garcia’s gang and its activities.