Circuit Court of Appeals in ACLU of
Massachusetts v. USCCB vacated a lower court ruling from March 2012 that
found that HHS had violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment
over an anti-human trafficking contract that HHS had previously awarded to the
USCCB. HHS and USCCB eventually won on limited grounds that didn’t decide the
core issue whether the conscience clause in the USCCB contract w/HHS violated
the Establishment Clause. The court also didn’t reach the more peripheral (but
still important) question of whether ACLU alone (i.e., not as attorneys for an
aggrieved trafficking victim or subcontractor) has standing to challenge the
contract, solely as an interested association of taxpayers. The court only
found that there is no more dispute left for the court to decide, because the
original contract ran its course – in legalese, that the case is moot. Since
the decision—which was terrible—was vacated, there is no precedential effect
whatsoever, not even as persuasive authority. That blight is gone. However, the
lack of conclusive resolution to the case leaves open the possibility those
similar suits could be re-filed.
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