Coons v. Geithner

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Coons v. Geithner is a lawsuit filed on August 12, 2010, by the Goldwater Institute as a constitutional challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act legislation passed in March 2010. The lawsuit was dismissed on December 19, 2012.

Background of the case[edit]

The suit aimed to prevent the bill from taking effect, and named as defendants four high-ranking officials within the federal government: President Barack Obama, then-Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and Attorney General Eric Holder. The Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation represented Tempe, Arizona, resident Nick Coons, thirty Arizona state lawmakers, and three then-Representatives from Arizona, Jeff Flake (now a Senator), Trent Franks, and John Shadegg (since retired). In justifying the need for such a lawsuit, the Goldwater Institute argued that the PPACA represents an expansion of federal power in medicine, the likes of which has not taken place since the creation of Medicaid and Medicare.[1]

The Goldwater Institute believed that this lawsuit distinguished itself from others filed across the country in that it united the most effective arguments from lawsuits already filed by the states of Virginia and Florida with further claims. According to the Goldwater Institute, these additional claims were "based on the separation of powers, the right to medical autonomy and privacy, and the First Amendment." The suit claimed that the lead plaintiff, Nick Coons of Tempe, would have his right to medical privacy violated by the legislation. The legislation would compel Coons to disclose medical records that could be accessed by the federal government without Coons's approval.[2] Additionally, in 2014, Coons would face fines if he did not purchase a federally approved health care plan.[3]

One specific target of the lawsuit was the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is a new agency created by the health care bill. According to the Goldwater Institute, the board "will be able to dictate how much doctors can charge for medical care, how insurance companies will pay for it, and when patients can get access to cutting-edge treatments."[1] Because these decisions cannot be reviewed by Congress nor the courts, the lawsuit claimed that the separation of powers doctrine is violated as a result of the health care legislation.

In addition, thirty Arizona lawmakers joined the suit because they believed the bill violates their First Amendment rights to cast votes for the benefit of their constituents. For example, in 2010, the Arizona Legislature sought to reduce the state's budget deficits by voting to reduce state funding for Medicaid. However, after the federal health care bill was passed, the Legislature had to restore all state funding for Medicaid or Arizona would have lost $7 billion in federal funding.[1]

Disposition of the case[edit]

By an opinion (No. 13-15324) issued on August 7, 2014, retitled as Coons v. Lew (Jacob Lew having replaced Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury), the 9th Circuit affirmed the bulk of the judgment, but vacated in part and remanded to the District Court with instructions to dismiss one count for lack of jurisdiction.[4] On March 30, 2015, the Supreme Court refused to review the opinion of the 9th Circuit.[5]

Case timeline[edit]

Initial suit

  • August 12, 2010: Goldwater Institute files suit in federal court against President Obama's federal health care bill.
  • August 16, 2010: G. Murray Snow, United States federal judge is assigned the case.
  • November 16, 2010: Goldwater Institute files Motion for Preliminary Injunction.
  • January 17, 2012: Court grants Motion to Stay based on the expectation of a Supreme Court ruling later in the year.
  • August 31, 2012: Court dismisses Counts I, II, III, VI, and VII of the suit in light of the Supreme Court's opinion in Nat'l Fed'n of Indep. Bus. v. Sebelius, 132 S.Ct. 2566 (2012); orders Supplemental Briefings for the remaining Counts.
  • December 19, 2012: Court dismisses remaining Counts IV, V, and VIII in the suit.[6] Concludes the PPACA does not violate Plaintiff Coons' substantive due process rights, and that the PPACA pre-empts the HCFA and the Arizona Constitution.[7]


  • February 19, 2013: Goldwater Institute appeals dismissal
  • June 10, 2014: 9th Circuit to hear oral argument at 9am in San Francisco
  • August 7, 2014: 9th Circuit issues its opinion No. 13-15324 dismissing the action.
  • March 30, 2015: The Supreme Court refuses to review the 9th Circuit opinion.


  1. ^ a b c "Coons v. Geithner (federal health care lawsuit)". Goldwater Institute. Retrieved 8 September 2010. 
  2. ^ "New lawsuit challenges health care reform", News 92.3 KTAR, August 12, 2010.
  3. ^ "Goldwater Institute files lawsuit against Obamacare", East Valley Tribune, August 12, 2010.
  4. ^ Graber, Susan. "Coons v. Lew" (PDF). 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Retrieved 12 February 2017. 
  5. ^ Haberkorn, Jennifer (30 March 2015). "Supreme Court won't hear case on Obamacare Medicare board". Politico. Retrieved 12 February 2017. 
  6. ^ Murray Snow, G. (19 December 2012). "COONS v. GEITHNER". Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  7. ^ 19 December 2012 Court Order by Judge G. Murray Snow