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Golinsky v. OPM MTD1

Golinsky v. OPM MTD1

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Published by: Northern District of California Blog on Sep 26, 2011
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09/26/2011

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   U  n   i   t  e   d   S   t  a   t  e  s   D   i  s   t  r   i  c   t   C  o  u  r   t
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12345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTFOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIAKAREN GOLINSKI,Plaintiff,v.UNITED STATES OFFICE OF PERSONNELMANAGEMENT and JOHN BERRY, Directorof the United States Office of PersonnelManagement, in his official capacity,Defendants.No. C 10-00257 JSW
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TODISMISS AND DENYINGMOTION FOR PRELIMINARYINJUNCTION
Now before the Court is the motion for preliminary injunction filed by Plaintiff KarenGolinski and the motion to dismiss the first amended complaint filed by Defendants UnitedStates Office of Personnel Management and John Berry, its director (collectively, “OPM”).Golinski brings this action for mandamus relief, seeking to have OPM rescind its prior guidanceto her insurance company and to cease its obstruction of Golinski’s attempts to secure healthinsurance coverage for her same-sex spouse. Having considered the parties’ papers, relevantlegal authority, and the record in this case, the Court HEREBY GRANTS OPM’s motion todismiss and DENIES Plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction. The Court shall givePlaintiff leave to amend her claims.
Case3:10-cv-00257-JSW Document98 Filed03/16/11 Page1 of 12
 
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BACKGROUND
Golinski is a staff attorney in the Motions Unit of the Office of Staff Attorneys in theNinth Circuit Court of Appeals. (Declaration of Karen Golinski in support of preliminaryinjunction motion (“Golinski PI Decl.”), at ¶ 1.) Golinski has been partners with AmyCunninghis for over twenty years, as registered domestic partners with the City and County of San Francisco since 1995, and with the State of California since 2003. On August 21, 2008,they were legally married under the laws of the State of California. (
 Id.
at ¶ 2.)Shortly after the marriage, Golinski sought to enroll her spouse in her existing familycoverage health insurance plan, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Service Benefit Plan, which shepurchases through her employer and which already covers the couple’s adopted minor child.(
 Id.
at ¶¶ 3, 4.) Initially, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (“AO”) refusedto process her request on the basis that Golinski and her spouse are both women. (
 Id.
at ¶¶ 5,6.) Finding that she could not secure comparable health insurance coverage, on October 2,2008, Golinski filed a complaint under the Ninth Circuit’s Employment Dispute Resolution(“EDR”) Plan, arguing that the refusal to grant her health benefits was a violation of the Plan’snondiscrimination provision. (
 Id.
at ¶ 8.)The judicial council is established under federal law for each appellate court to “makeall necessary and appropriate orders for the effective and expeditious administration of justicewithin its circuit.” 28 U.S.C. § 332(d)(1). In 1998, the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuitapproved an EDR plan that grants the circuit’s employees certain substantive rights and sets outa procedure for the enforcement of those rights. (
See
Plaintiff’s PI Motion, Ex. A.) The planspecific prohibits “[d]iscrimination against employees based on ... sex ... and sexualorientation.” (
 Id.
at 2.)In addition, the EDR plan sets out a detailed administrative process for the resolution of employee disputes within the circuit. (
See id 
. at 1.) After mandatory counseling and mediation,an employee may file a formal written complaint with the chief judge of the circuit court. (
 Id 
.at 1, 3, 5-7.) In the event the presiding officer finds a violation of a substantive right protectedby the plan, he may award “a necessary and appropriate remedy.” (
 Id.
at 9-10.) A party
Case3:10-cv-00257-JSW Document98 Filed03/16/11 Page2 of 12
 
   U  n   i   t  e   d   S   t  a   t  e  s   D   i  s   t  r   i  c   t   C  o  u  r   t
   F  o  r   t   h  e   N  o  r   t   h  e  r  n   D   i  s   t  r   i  c   t  o   f   C  a   l   i   f  o  r  n   i  a
123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627283dissatisfied with the final decision may petition the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit forreview. (
 Id 
. at 9.)By orders dated November 24, 2008 and January 13, 2009, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski,sitting in his administrative capacity as arbiter of the Judicial Council, found that Golinski hadsuffered discrimination under the Court’s EDR Plan and ordered the AO to process her healthbenefit election forms. (First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) at Exs. A, B.) Judge Kozinskifound that the denial of health benefits was based solely on the grounds of sex and sexualorientation, in direct violation of the EDR Plan’s non-discrimination provision covering NinthCircuit employees. (
 Id.
at Ex. B at 1-2; Golinski PI Decl., Ex. A (EDR Plan) at 2.) JudgeKozinski ordered the AO “to submit Karen Golinski’s Health Benefits Election form 2089 ... tothe appropriate insurance carrier. Any future health benefit forms are also to be processedwithout regard to the sex of the listed spouse.” (FAC, Ex. B at 7.)The AO complied, but the OPM instructed Golinski’s insurance carrier not to complywith the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council’s remedial orders. OPM directed the AO and BlueCross and Blue Shield Service Benefit Plan not to process Golinski’s request on the basis thatfederal law, specifically Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), defines spouseas a member of the opposite sex and, accordingly, proscribes the enrollment of Golinski’s same-sex spouse in her health benefits program.In response, on November 19, 2009, Judge Kozinski issued another order addressing theOPM’s conduct. The chief judge, again sitting as an administrator, held that he had theauthority, under both the Ninth Circuit’s EDR Plan and the separation of powers doctrine, tointerpret the laws applicable to judicial employees that would displace “any contraryinterpretation by an agency or an officer of the Executive.” (FAC, Ex. C at 14-15.) JudgeKozinski held that allowing the OPM to interfere with the Judge’s orders would be tantamountto permitting it to exercise “dominance over logistics to destroy [the Judiciary’s] autonomy.”(
 Id.
at 11.) Judge Kozinksi further held that “[o]rdering enrollment is proper and within my jurisdiction because Congress intended [the EDR] tribunal to be the sole forum for adjudicating
Case3:10-cv-00257-JSW Document98 Filed03/16/11 Page3 of 12

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