A U.S. Supreme Court case scheduled for April 29 could clarify when notice-and-comment procedures satisfy the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), allowing individuals to challenge more federal laws and regulations on religious grounds.
The case, Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania , is about whether the Trump administration had the legal authority to issue rules providing a religious or moral exemption to the contraception mandate created under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
In a July 2019 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld a nationwide injunction that blocked the new exemption rules from going into effect. That court held that the U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services did not have legal permission to modify the contraceptive requirements developed after Obamacare passed. The Third Circuit also held that the agencies violated APA notice-and-comment requirements.
The APA is a federal law passed in 1946 establishing uniform procedures for federal agencies to propose and issue regulations, a process known as rulemaking. The APA also addresses policy statements and licenses issued by agencies and provides for judicial review of agency adjudications and other final decisions. Under the APA’s informal rulemaking system, agencies must consider written public feedback on proposed rules submitted during a comment period.