The Network for Public Health Law monitors key court cases and relevant judicial trends in public health. The Network’s monthly reporter, Judicial Trends in Public Health (JTPH), highlights select published cases from the prior 3 months in public health law and policy. These cases are organized below by name, issuing court, date of issuance, along with a brief synopsis, link to the case abstract, and hyperlink to the full decisions (when publicly available). For more information, including a topic digest of these and other cases, see below. Questions, comments, thoughts? Contact the Network for more information.
U.S. v. Safehouse, et. al. (E.D. Pa. Oct. 2, 2019): A federal judge from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that a non-profit organization’s plan to open a supervised injection site did not violate the federal Controlled Substances Act. Read the abstract and access the decision here.
City & County of San Francisco v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (N.D. Cal. Oct. 11, 2019): A federal district court in California preliminary enjoined the federal Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) public charge rule concluding, in part, that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that DHS acted arbitrarily and capriciously in formulating the rule by failing to consider its negative public health consequences. Read the abstract and access the decision here.
F.F. on behalf of Y. F. v. State (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Aug. 23, 2019): Parents, on behalf of their minor children, sued to challenge the New York legislature’s repeal of the non-medical religious exemption to school-entry vaccinations. After a trial court denied their motion for a temporary restraining order, the plaintiffs moved to block the repeal, but were denied. Read the abstract and access the decision here.
State of California v. The Little Sisters of the Poor (9th Cir. Oct. 22, 2019): The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court’s preliminary injunction halting implementation of federal agencies’ rules exempting all entities with sincerely held religious or moral objections from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide birth control without cost sharing. Read the abstract and access the decision here.
Bellion Spirits, et al. v. U.S., et al. (D.D.C. Aug. 1, 2019): A federal district court in D.C. ordered summary judgment in favor of the federal government regarding a lawsuit filed by a liquor product manufacturer. The manufacturer sought approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to market certain alcoholic beverages using positive health claims. Read the abstract and access the decision here.
Little Rock Family Planning Services. v. Rutledge (E.D. Ark. Aug. 6, 2019): A federal district court in Arkansas blocked various abortions laws, including a ban on abortion procedures after 18 weeks, a ban on abortions based solely on a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome or a belief a fetus has Down syndrome, and physician certification requirements. Read the abstract and access the decision here.
Jeffrey Bowen, et al. v. Telfair County School District, et al. (S.D. Ga. Sept. 17, 2019): A federal judge from the Southern District of Georgia ruled that a school district is entitled to immunity, but a school’s coach was only entitled to partial immunity, in a negligence claim involving a high school football player who was allowed to continue playing after sustaining a concussion, resulting in long-term cognitive injury. Read the abstract and access the decision here.
State of Oklahoma, ex. rel. Hunter v. Purdue Pharma, L.P., et. al. (Okla. Dist. Ct. Aug. 26, 2019): An Oklahoma state court ruled that Johnson & Johnson® engaged in a misleading and dangerous opioid marketing campaign in violation of the state’s public nuisance law. Read the abstract and access the decision here.
Vapor Technology Association, et al. v. Cuomo, et al. (N.Y. App. Div. Oct. 3, 2019): A state intermediate appellate court preliminarily enjoined the State of New York from enforcing an emergency executive order banning the sale of flavored electronic smoking devices (a.k.a. e-cigarettes or vaping devices). Read the abstract and access the decision here.
Clean Water Action et al. v. EPA et al. (5th Cir. Aug. 28, 2019): The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to review EPA’s 2017 rule postponing certain compliance dates for new standards and limitations on power plant wastewater issued under EPA’s 2015 rules. Read the abstract and access the decision here.
TOPICS: These and other cases are organized on the Network website under the topics below (adapted from chapter titles in Public Health Law in a Nutshell (3rd Edition) by James G. Hodge, Jr., Director, Network for Public Health Law—Western Region). Select a topic below to view all cases under that topic.
1. Source & Scope of Public Health Legal Powers
2. Constitutional Rights & the Public's Health
3. Preventing & Treating Communicable Conditions
5. Addressing Chronic Conditions
6. Mitigating the Incidence & Severity of Injuries & Other Harms
7. Public Health Information Management, Privacy & Security
9. Monitoring Property & the Built Environment
JTPH is made possible through a collaboration of the Network’s Western and Eastern Region Offices led and edited by April Shaw, JD, PhD, Staff Attorney, at the Western Region Office. Additional contributors include: James G. Hodge, Jr., JD, LLM, Kathi Hoke, JD, Leila Barraza, JD, MPH, Kerri McGowan Lowrey, JD, MPH, Mathew R. Swinburne, JD, Megan Griest, MPP, Cecilia Nieto, and Emily Carey.