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Jackson Women's Health Organization v. Dobbs

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi.

May 24, 2019

Jackson Women's Health Organization, On behalf of itself and its patients, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Thomas E. Dobbs, In his official capacity as State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health, et al., Defendants.

          Before Carlton W. Reeves, District Judge.

          ORDER GRANTING PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

          Carlton W. Reeves, United States District Judge.

         Here we go again. Mississippi has passed another law banning abortions prior to viability. The latest iteration, Senate Bill 2116, bans abortions in Mississippi after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is as early as 6 weeks lmp.[1]

         The parties have been here before. Last spring, plaintiffs successfully challenged Mississippi's ban on abortion after 15 weeks lmp. The Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional and permanently enjoined its enforcement.[2] The State responded by passing an even more restrictive bill, S.B. 2116.

         Plaintiffs now move to supplement their original complaint to challenge S.B. 2116 and to preliminary enjoin the bill's enforcement, prior to it taking effect on July 1, 2019. On May 21, the Court held oral argument on both motions.

         I. Supplemental Complaint

         This suit has already been divided into two parts: Part I addressed the 15-week ban, and Part II, which is currently in discovery, involves challenges to five different abortion regulation schemes. Plaintiffs' proposed supplemental complaint would in effect add a Part III-a challenge to S.B. 2116 based on due process and equal protection claims.

         Under Rule 15(d), “the court may, on just terms, permit a party to serve a supplemental pleading setting out any transaction, occurrence, or event that happened after the date of the pleading to be supplemented.”[3]

         “[T]here is the obvious and reasonable requirement that the supplementation have ‘some relation' to what is sought to be supplemented.”[4] When deciding whether to allow supplementation, the court should consider the totality of the circumstances, such as: “(1) undue delay, (2) bad faith or dilatory motive by the movant, (3) repeated failure to cure deficiencies by previous amendments, (4) undue prejudice to the opposing party, or (5) futility of amendment.”[5]

         The State concedes that none of these factors “weigh against allowing supplementation[.]”[6] Rather, the State argues that because the challenge to S.B. 2116 does not stem from the original complaint, plaintiffs are attempting to “shoehorn a separate and distinct constitutional challenge” into “their existing complaint[.]”[7]

         There are several reasons to allow plaintiffs to supplement the complaint. First, as all parties acknowledge, none of the factors mentioned above (delay, bad faith, deficiencies, undue prejudice, or futility) counsel against supplementation.[8] Second, the proposed supplemental claims are related to the original suit. The supplemental claims involve the same parties as the original suit. The supplemental claims pose the same legal question as the original suit: does the law ban abortion prior to viability? And the supplemental claims involve a substantial overlap of facts relevant to the original suit.[9] Finally, the supplemental claims can be adjudicated simultaneously with the current suit because Part II still has a year left in discovery.

         In a similar case challenging Alabama's abortion regulations, Judge Myron Thompson addressed a similar motion to supplement the complaint. He reasoned that “one of the primary goals of Rule 15(d) is to aid in the complete resolution of disputes between parties.”[10] Because plaintiffs filed the original complaint to “prevent permanent closure of the [abortion] clinic, ” and their proposed supplemental complaint added a challenge to a regulation that would have also resulted in closure, supplementation allowed for complete resolution in a single civil action.[11]

         This Court is in a very similar position to Judge Thompson. The State passed a new abortion ban while its present abortion ban is in active litigation. Supplementation will allow for a complete resolution of the dispute between JWHO and the State. To use the State's words, it would not “make sense” to force the plaintiffs to challenge this statute in a separate lawsuit.

         The motion to supplement is granted. The supplemental claims against S.B. 2116 will proceed as Part III of this case. Part III ...


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