By now, you probably know that a civil lawsuit filed by the Obama administration to block the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has been settled.
That’s right: the administration settled the case, but it’s not yet clear what the terms of the settlement will be.
As I noted last month, the settlement is still in the hands of the federal district court in Chicago, where the case is pending.
Here’s what you need to know about the settlement, and what you should expect from future civil cases.
What are the legal consequences of the Obama Administration’s settlement?
The settlement has major implications for how civil lawsuits are handled.
First, as the lawsuit was being filed, the Obama DOJ had filed a series of lawsuits against various health care providers, alleging that they had engaged in practices that harmed the federal government.
Those cases, which were eventually dismissed, are now being re-opened in the district court, with the aim of getting a more favorable outcome for the plaintiffs.
Second, the settlements also come with significant consequences for federal civil lawsuits in general.
First of all, if the settlements were to be enforced, the courts could take a different approach to civil cases involving federal civil actions.
If a plaintiff can successfully prove that the defendant violated federal civil laws, the case could be thrown out of court.
(This is because the government generally does not have to prove the law in a civil case, and the judge generally has no way to weigh in on whether a law is fair and just.)
If the plaintiffs can show that the federal civil claim was frivolous, the lawsuit would likely be dismissed.
And, of course, the plaintiffs could be required to pay attorneys fees.
If the plaintiffs are successful, the Justice Department could then be allowed to move forward with its own legal challenge to the law.
The settlement could also open the door to more cases being brought against the federal administration by individuals, who could potentially have their rights to due process violated if they are harmed in a federal lawsuit.
Finally, if a settlement is upheld, the consequences for individuals in civil cases would also be significant.
In the case of a lawsuit by the US Government alleging that an individual has been harmed in an HHS-administered program, for example, the Department of Justice could have a hard time challenging that individual’s claim, since that individual could argue that the HHS-managed program is in fact unlawful.
In such a case, the plaintiff would have to argue that they were harmed, and could therefore be liable for the cost of their lawsuit.
The Obama Administration has also agreed to a series.
In addition to the settlements, the federal courts have agreed to enforce a series more specific rules about how federal civil cases are handled: for example: for cases filed under the Administrative Procedure Act, the court would have the discretion to dismiss the lawsuit, rather than allowing the defendant to make the case that the lawsuit should be dismissed in its entirety, and to set a time period for the case to be litigated.
Finally (and probably most important), the Obama administrations settlement with the federal court will not impact other civil lawsuits.
If an individual is injured by a civil claim in federal civil court, he or she will still be able to file a lawsuit.
But the parties involved will not be able seek injunctive relief against HHS in order to compel compliance with the law, and they will not have the option to challenge HHS’s actions in court.
If the Obama adminstration prevails in its lawsuit against the HHS, the outcome could have major ramifications for other civil rights cases, including LGBT rights and women’s rights.
As we noted in our coverage last month of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, the administration has already made a number of significant changes to its civil rights policies.
And with this settlement, the potential for more lawsuits is certainly on the rise.