Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer Obtains Victory Before Supreme Court on Behalf of Religious Hospitals

June 9, 2017

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer won a unanimous victory in the Supreme Court this week in Advocate Health Care Network v. Stapleton, Saint Peter’s Healthcare System v. Kaplan, and Dignity Health v. Rollins. The Court ruled in favor of the firm’s clients, three nonprofit religious hospital systems, in a case concerning the “church plan” exemption to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). In an opinion authored by Justice Kagan, the Court rejected the argument that the religious hospitals’ pension systems were ineligible for the “church plan” exemption on the theory that they had not been “established” by a church. The Court overruled contrary decisions by three courts of appeals.

The June 5, 2017, decision affects dozens of pending cases against religious hospitals involving claims for tens of billions of dollars in retroactive liability, and hundreds if not thousands of religious organizations. The case drew amicus participation from multiple organizations, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the Christian Legal Society, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ, and the Metropolitan Chicago Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer team was led by Lisa Blatt, who has argued 35 cases before the Supreme Court, prevailing in 33, and included Elisabeth Theodore and Sally Pei. The firm also represented all three hospitals at the “cert petition” stage, successfully convincing the Court to grant all three cases. 

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