The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Friday rejected a request from the state of Louisiana to dismiss a lawsuit challenging several abortion regulations.
The ruling came in a response to an abortion clinic and two doctors seeking a federal injunction against Louisiana’s legal framework for regulating abortion. The clinic and its doctors maintained a “cumulative-effects challenge,” suggesting that Louisiana laws regulating abortion were unconstitutional when taken as a whole even if individual provisions were not. They argued that the laws placed an undue burden on women seeking abortions.
The court ultimately decided to reject a writ of mandamus for Louisiana. In order to issue a writ of mandamus, the court must find that the party seeking the writ has no other means of attaining the relief it so desires. The petitioner must also satisfy the burden of showing a clear and indisputable right to the writ. Even if these two conditions are met, the court must still be satisfied that the writ is appropriate under the circumstances.
The court found that while Louisiana was able to meet the first and second requirements for the writ, issuance was not appropriate in this circumstance. The court pointed to a number of factors that distinguish this case from an ordinary decision, including:
(1) A sovereign State is requesting the writ; (2) Plaintiffs seek sweeping review of an entire body of state law; (3) Plaintiffs seek structural injunctions that would give the district court de facto control of state law; (4) the type of discovery waiting on the other side of Louisiana’s motion to dismiss is categorically different than what awaits an ordinary civil litigant; and (5) the ordinary civil litigant cannot demand attorneys’ fees from the State’s taxpayers.
The court placed particular emphasis on the potential “astronomical” fees and expenses that would arise if Louisiana were to lose the case. They pointed to the $2.5 million in fees awarded in the 2019 Whole Woman’s Health decision and the potential for a similar decision to burden Louisiana taxpayers.
The court ultimately found that the combination of these five factors made for an “extraordinary” case in which a later appeal would instead be adequate.