This is more than mere rhetorical support: the Obama Justice Department has filed with the court a document in support of Planned Parenthood called a “statement of interest.” And DOJ has done this pretty darn quick, too.
On 25 August, Planned Parenthood sued Louisiana in federal court because Governor Bobby Jindal decided to cut government ties with the organization, and ensure that no public funds (i.e., Medicaid) would go to it for its baby-slicing services.
Townhall’s Leah Barkoukis cites an AP summary of the justification offered by the DOJ in its Monday filing:
The U.S. Justice Department told a federal judge that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to oust Planned Parenthood from Louisiana’s Medicaid program appears to violate federal law by denying Medicaid patients the right to choose their health care providers.
In a court filing, the agency said the Jindal administration hasn’t offered “sufficient reasons” to keep Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s clinics in New Orleans and Baton Rouge from receiving Medicaid payments.
Removing Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program “without providing any justification related to (the organization’s) qualifications to provide medical services would violate Louisiana’s obligations under the Medicaid statute’s ‘free choice of provider’ provision,” the Justice Department wrote.
Jindal believes the state is on solid ground in terminating the contract:
His administration maintains that the move was perfectly legal. According to what Jindal’s spokesman, Mike Reed, has previously argued, “The Medicaid provider contract between the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and Planned Parenthood gives either party the right to cancel the contract at will with a 30-day notice. Governor Jindal and DHH chose to exercise that right to cancel.”
But the Obama administration has a different view.
[T]he Justice Department called that claim “wholly without merit,” saying Louisiana cannot rely on a state law to justify Planned Parenthood’s ousting, but must show that the clinics aren’t able to perform Medicaid services or properly bill for them.
Louisiana can’t simply argue that the providers agreed in state contracts that they can be removed “at-will” and give up any right to sue when removed because they signed the arrangements, the Justice Department said.
“States do not have unfettered discretion to determine that a provider is not ‘qualified’ for purposes of federal Medicaid law,” the agency wrote.
I wonder if it will come as a surprise to the states, and at least some of the federal courts, that states are bound by the considerations listed in the DOJ “statement of interest,” which sound suspiciously made-up on the fly. We’ll see how that plays out in the days ahead.
But if you were also wondering what this “statement of interest” is that DOJ has filed on Planned Parenthood’s behalf, you’re in good company. It turns out that “statements of interest” are a concoction of the Obama administration — a sort of activist campaign waged via what appear to be, basically, heavy-handed amicus briefs — and the Obama DOJ has been filing them, in state and local courts as well as federal courts, for several years now. An article in the New York Times on 19 August describes this as “a novel legal campaign that began early in the Obama administration and has expanded in recent years”:
In dozens of lawsuits around the country involving local disputes, the federal government has filed so-called statements of interest, throwing its weight behind private lawsuits and, in many cases, pushing the boundaries of civil rights law.
The federal government has typically waded into local court cases only when the outcome directly affected a federal interest, such as national security or diplomacy. Recently, however, the Justice Department has filed statements of interest in cases involving legal aid in New York, transgender students in Michigan, juvenile prisoners in solitary detention in California, and people who take videos of police officers in Baltimore. The government has weighed in on employment discrimination claims brought by transgender plaintiffs and a lawsuit over the right of blind people with service dogs to be able to use Uber, a car-sharing service. …
Loretta E. Lynch, who became attorney general in April, has continued the initiative unabated.
Of course she has. NYT notes the following:
Civil rights groups have applauded the move — and in turn flooded the Justice Department with requests for government intervention in their cases. But to lawyers on the other side, it can feel as if the government is using private court cases to make political points.
“From the community’s perspective, it was an ongoing nightmare,” said Scott G. Thomas, the lawyer for Burlington in the lawsuit over legal aid. The Obama administration’s involvement turned the city of about 8,000 people into a national symbol. “Why is the Department of Justice interested in a little case involving two little communities in northwest Washington?” Mr. Thomas said.
Why, indeed? Well, we all know why. Just as we know why the Obama DOJ has charged into the Planned Parenthood lawsuit against Louisiana with a “statement of interest” on Planned Parenthood’s behalf. It’s because Obama’s and Lynch’s DOJ wants to make political points: to support Planned Parenthood, and see if it can put its thumb on the scale of justice.
Eric Holder famously said this, just before he left the post of Attorney General: “Any attorney general who is not an activist is not doing his or her job.”
With each day that passes, the sense grows that there will be more activist initiatives to undo at the end of the Obama presidency than there were things government did at all, before he took office.