Today I had the pleasure of serving as one of the presenters at a CLE (continuing legal education) at the U of M Law School. It was on the same case we are teaching in our Civil Rights Moot Court class this year: Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Secretary of U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 724 F.3d 377 (3d Cir. 2013). It had the coolest title of any CLE I ever spoke at before: Corporations: How Human Are They? Do They Have A Right To The Free Exercise of Religion?
It’s an ObamaCare case, with a closely-held, private corporation and its shareholders (all part of a seriously religious family) wanting to be exempted from providing contraceptive-coverage for the company’s employees as required (“mandated”) by the new health care law. The corporation and shareholders claim the government mandating this preventive care coverage be provided violates their rights to freely exercise their religion under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause in the US Constitution. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) is argued to require the US Supreme Court to apply a strict scrutiny analysis.
Oral arguments before the Supreme Court are on March 24, 2014 and the actual decision should be out early this summer. (My money is on the RFRA being struck down as unconstitutional–my money is $1.98 is all though).
Moot Court Competition
Before any of that occurs, the Conestoga case will first face the scrutiny of the 29th annual William E. McGee National Civil Rights Moot Court Competition on February 20, 21 & 22, 2014. This year about 34 teams of law students from across the country will argue the case in this inter-scholastic appellate moot court competition sponsored by the University of Minnesota Law School.
The competition’s mission is to promote interest, reflection and discourse among law students, law faculty and members of the practicing bar and bench in the substance, procedure and practice of civil rights law and to provide opportunity to interested law students to develop the oral advocacy and writing skills essential to be successful appellate practitioners.
We still need attorneys to act as volunteer judges so please contact me if you are interested. It’ll be another great competition this year and I’m proud to play a small part in it.