A federal appeals court today blocked the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher from filing a pro-Affordable Care Act brief — because the submission would have kept an unidentified judge from ruling on a major ACA case, Texas v. United States.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals explained the ruling with an order pointing to a recently updated federal appeals court rule, and to a local court rule. Both the updated federal rule and the local rule let the 5th Circuit reject an “amicus brief” if accepting the brief would keep judge from participating in deliberations on a case.
An “amicus brief,” or “friend of the court brief,” is a paper from a party that’s not directly involved in a court case. Individuals or groups file amicus briefs in an effort to show a court relevant information that has not yet been presented by the parties directly involved in a court case.
The 5th Circuit did not identify the judge who could have been affected by acceptance of the brief.
A Texas v. United States Primer
Officials in Texas and other states who oppose the ACA filed the suit in an effort to overturn the ACA. A district court judge in Texas has ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor.
At the district court level, the Trump administration had been supporting the goal of overturning part of the ACA but had supported the idea of keeping most of the ACA intact. The Justice Department recently dropped its defense of most of the ACA and is now siding with Texas and the other states that want to throw out the entire law.
The 5th Circuit has not yet set an argument date for the case. The court also has not announced the names of the three-judge panel that will hear the case.
The Justice Department today asked the 5th Circuit to hear the case in July. “Prompt resolution of this case will help reduce uncertainty in the healthcare sector, and other areas affected by the Affordable Care Act,” Martin Totaro wrote in the filing.
Officials in California, New York state and other states who support the ACA have been seeking permission from the 5th Circuit to intervene on behalf of keeping the ACA in place.
The Gibson Dunn Brief
The Gibson Dunn team — litigation partner Stuart Delery and Washington associates Andrew Wilhelm and D. William Lawrence — represented two parties: First Focus and The Children’s Partnership.
Both of those parties are nonprofit groups that are backing the pro-ACA states.
Delery, formerly an Obama-era acting associate attorney general at Main Justice in Washington, was not immediately reached for comment Monday.