First Circuit dismisses ACLU challenge to federal USCCB grant on mootness grounds

ACLU of Massachusetts v. USCCB, Nos. 12-1466, 12-1658 (1st Cir. Jan. 15, 2013) (Lynch, Chief Judge, Torruella, Circuit Judge, and DiClerico, District Judge.)

LYNCH, Chief Judge. The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (ACLUM), asserting taxpayer standing on behalf of its members, brought suit in 2009 alleging that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. HHS had received funds appropriated by Congress under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and, in 2006, contracted with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to provide services to trafficking victims. At the insistence of USCCB, the 2006 contract incorporated a restriction under which neither USCCB nor any of its subcontractors would use funding to counsel or provide abortions or contraceptive services and prescriptions to trafficking victims.
In March of 2012, the district court awarded relief to ACLUM issuing a declaratory judgment that HHS had violated the Establishment Clause “insofar as they delegated authority to a religious organization to impose religiously based restrictions on the expenditure of taxpayer funds, and thereby impliedly endorsed the religious beliefs of the USCCB and the Catholic Church.” Am. Civil Liberties Union of Mass. v. Sebelius, 821 F. Supp. 2d 474, 488 (D. Mass. 2012). The 2006 contract, along with its extensions, expired in October of 2011.
We vacate on grounds of mootness and remand with instructions to dismiss.