Herrera files response with U.S. Supreme Court in defense of ‘Healthy San Francisco’

Supplemental brief addresses GGRA’s arguments in response to Solicitor General over whether to grant review in case

SAN FRANCISCO (June 9, 2010) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed a supplemental brief with the U.S. Supreme Court rebutting arguments by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association that key provisions of San Francisco’s universal health care program, “Healthy San Francisco,” merit adjudication as to whether the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, preempts local governments from requiring employers to make health care expenditures for their workers.

GGRA v. CCSF U.S. Supreme Court Supplemental Brief presskit (June 9, 2010)
GGRA v. CCSF U.S. Supreme Court Supplemental Brief presskit (June 9, 2010)

Acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal K. Katyal last month urged the high court to deny review in the case, reflecting the Obama Administration’s view that the enactment of health care reform at the national level had removed the need for the high court to decide the issue. In responding to GGRA’s arguments today, Herrera’s brief largely concurred with Katyal, arguing that, “[A]s a practical matter…federal health care reform almost certainly renders obsolete the ERISA preemption question presented by this petition.”

The Solicitor General’s brief had been requested by the Supreme Court last October, postponing a decision many had expected on the opening day of the high court’s term as to whether it would grant or deny GGRA’s petition for review. In cases involving the application of such federal laws as ERISA, it is not unusual for the U.S. Supreme Court to seek input from the executive branch before deciding whether to grant review. Arguments by the Solicitor General are often thought to have influence on the high court’s deliberations, but they do not predict the court’s decision on whether to take up a case, or how it would ultimately rule if review were granted. Although the U.S. Department of Labor under former President George W. Bush had previously filed briefs opposing the City’s program in lower courts, the Obama Administration indicated early on a willingness to take a fresh look at the case.

Were the Supreme Court to grant review in the case, it would consider GGRA’s bid to overturn a 2008 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that upheld the City’s employer health care spending requirement. A denial of review — as urged by Herrera and Solicitor General Katyal — would effectively end the legal challenge to San Francisco’s universal health care program. The Supreme Court’s decision on whether to grant or deny review in the case is expected by the end of this month.

The case is Golden Gate Restaurant Association v. City and County of San Francisco et al., Supreme Court of the United States, Case No. 08-1515.