In DeOtte v. State of Nevada, the district court’s injunction about the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act became moot after a 2020 Supreme Court opinion. The State of Nevada, a latecomer to the case, sought vacatur of the injunction.
The Fifth Circuit summarized the applicable principles. Its “authority to vacate comes from [28 U.S.C. § 2106] that provides that an appellate court ‘may affirm, modify, vacate, set aside or reverse any judgment, decree, or order of a court lawfully brought before it for review.’” (emphasis omitted). Under that statute:
“[V]acatur is not automatic; it is ‘equitable relief’ and must ‘take account of the public interest.’ Precedents ‘are not merely the property of private litigants and should stand unless a court concludes that the public interest would be served by a vacatur.’ A court must assess ‘the equities of the individual case’ to determine whether vacatur is proper. This consideration centers on (1) ‘whether the party seeking relief from the judgment below caused the mootness by voluntary action’; and (2) whether public interests support vacatur.”
(citations omitted). After a thorough review of Nevada’s unusual procedural position in the case, the Court found that Nevada had standing (in the language of the statute, had “lawfully brought” the appeal), and granted Nevada the requested relief of vacatur. No. 19-10754 (Dec. 17, 2021).
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