- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2016

Conservatives looking for a window into Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland’s jurisprudence need look no further than a circuit court ruling he joined denying further review to religious, pro-life groups being forced to comply with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate.

After a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Archdiocese of Washington and Priests for Life, Mr. Garland joined a 6-3 majority denying en banc review of the case.

The groups said an accommodation to the contraceptive mandate still forced them to take steps to procure potentially abortion-inducing drugs for their employees. But the circuit court said the archdiocese and Priests for Life were mistaken about how the law really works.

“We concluded that the regulation challenged in this case does not, as a matter of law or fact, give plaintiffs’ conduct the contraception-facilitating effect of which they complain,” wrote Judge Nina Pillard in a 6-3 decision joined by Mr. Garland.

That case is one of seven that has been consolidated into Zubik v. Burwell, which will be heard before the Supreme Court on Wednesday. The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order that cares for the impoverished elderly, is among the groups challenging the HHS mandate.

In expectation of a protracted fight over the nomination, Mr. Garland has been painted by President Obama and Democrats as a moderate who would only call balls and strikes from the bench.

“I’ve selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness and excellence,” Mr. Obama said of Mr. Garland at a Rose Garden announcement last week.

But Republicans in the Senate say they will not bring the nomination to a vote, arguing the next president should decide who fills the vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

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