House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other high-profile Democrats filed an amicus curiae brief in Marion County Health and Hospitals Corporation v. Talevsky On Friday, the case moved toward oral arguments that could leave recipients of important programs like Medicaid with little recourse if states neglected their care.
Democratic members included House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), and Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Dick Durbin. (D-IL), many of whom serve on committees with authority over programs like Medicaid.
“Disturbing this Court’s Section 1983 doctrine more broadly, by restricting Congress’s ability to allow private enforcement of Expenditure Clause legislation and the programs established by that legislation, would have disastrous consequences,” they write.
Section 1983 is the federal statute under which beneficiaries can sue in federal court if states violate their rights under spending programs like Medicaid.
They add that it would leave federal and state programs with “modest oversight” and would “grossly undermine the purpose of Congress in enacting these statutes.”
“Neither federal nor state authorities have sufficient resources to provide full oversight of funds funneled to state programs,” the Democrats write. “Instead, their attention must often be devoted to remedying systemic abuses, while preserving the option for aggrieved individuals to seek individual remedies in federal court.”
Democrats also frame the case as potentially encroaching on the separation of powers, along with overturning 40 years of precedent.
“The Court must recognize that Congress, not the Court, has the responsibility to legislate the application and oversight of the Expenditure Clause statutes,” they write, adding that it would create an enormous administrative burden if the Court were to reject the 1983 actions. .
The conservative majority, in recent cases, has often argued that Congress was not clear enough in its legislation, an extension of increasingly fashionable conservative main-issue theories and no-delegation doctrines, which require specificity. granularity of Congress in granting authority to agencies
Here, the Democrats are clear: Congress intended Section 1983 lawsuits to be allowed, and if the Court closes that pathway to accountability, it will actively work against the legislature’s intent.
“When Congress speaks, it does so with an understanding of the law. It also says what it means,” they write. “This Court should not alter its precedent based on contract analogies, blatantly ignoring the language and intent of Congress regarding who are beneficial owners in the Expenditure Clause Legislation.”
A coalition of local activists, without much money, attention or luck so far, has been pressuring board members of the Marion County Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) to withdraw their appeal of the case to the high court. . They have also been lobbying the Indianapolis-Marion County City and County Council, a Democratic stronghold in fiery red Indiana, to join their efforts to pressure board members. The council appointed a couple of HHC board members and has some overall clout.
In recent weeks, the effort has had little success. Activists fought hard to get answers from HHC board members, and most board members seemed unwilling to get involved in the case publicly.
But some cracks began to appear in the stone wall Thursday night, at a Municipal Corporations Committee hearing. HHC CEO Paul Babcock and other associated HHC officials were in attendance to present the corporation’s budget. A handful of protesters sat in the crowd, holding signs reading “withdraw petition” and “save our civil rights.”
Councilman Frank Mascari was the first to raise the petition, which he described as “getting ready out there.”
“Let’s say Health and Hospital wins this lawsuit, how does this affect patients in all nursing homes?” she asked.
Babcock outlined a list of alternative remedies in the event of an HHC victory, including the ability to sue under state medical malpractice laws, sue in state court and file a complaint with the state Department of Health. He also noted that the federal government has some recourse, including extracting funds from a facility.
“So you don’t feel like they’re going to lose their rights?” Mascari asked.
“I don’t think the rights are lost,” replied Babcock.
His response was not satisfactory to some of the other council members.
Councilman Ethan Evans took to the microphone during the public question and answer session to share that constituents had experienced great difficulty in their attempts to file medical malpractice lawsuits.
“They have still been fighting the state with multiple attorneys, going all the way to the ACLU with [Indiana Legal Services]and they have all told them that they appreciate the concern that their legal case has received, that they have what in any other state would be a great case to go to court, but the laws of the state of Indiana, in their eyes, would be very biased to favor of hospitals for medical negligence,” he said.
“So, I would ask to reconsider that angle of how, if HHC were to win, that would be considered another angle for people to file lawsuits,” he added.
His comments earned him applause from the small group of protesters.
Councilwoman Ali Brown, who is part of the committee running the hearing, intervened with a statement that she read to Babcock.
“I am very concerned about the lawsuit, as the only member of this committee whose rights have been stripped from SCOTUS, I am very concerned that they will overreach and do things that are not right,” she said, her words interrupted by applause. . “I know in theory it should be a win, but I don’t trust those people, so I’m really worried.”
“Particularly as a parent of a child with disabilities, this really scares me,” she concluded.
Read the Democrats’ report here: