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Coalition Lawsuit Prompts “Fresh and Critical” Review and Potential Repeal of Dangerous Trump-Era ‘Sunset Rule’

Biden-Harris Administration Postponed Effective Date in the “Interests of Justice,” Now Says It Anticipates Proposing Repeal of Trump’s Sunset Rule

San José, CA— In a court filing responding to a recent lawsuit filed by local government, associations, and non-profit organizations, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it “anticipates issuing, in the coming months, a notice of proposed rulemaking repealing the SUNSET Rule.” The Rule— proposed and finalized in the Trump administration’s lame-duck period — would have set a ticking time bomb on more than 18,000 crucial regulations issued by HHS and its sub-agencies.

“In its waning days, and in the middle of the pandemic, the Trump administration proposed the wholesale expiration of every federal regulation affecting healthcare and social services,” said Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams. “The Sunset Rule violated the law and imperiled the lives and wellbeing of literally every American and the Nation’s entire healthcare system. We are pleased that the Biden administration now anticipates repealing the Sunset Rule.”

“We filed suit to stem the regulatory chaos that would ensue if the Sunset Rule ever saw the light of day,” said Democracy Forward Senior Counsel Samara Spence. “We applaud the Biden-Harris administration for taking a serious look at the legal flaws in the Rule, and we hope to see the administration act promptly to make good on its commitment to public health protections and to a lawful, transparent regulatory process.”

Citing the groups’ lawsuit, the Biden-Harris administration previously delayed the Sunset Rule’s effective date by one year to March 22, 2022. In doing so, HHS found:

  • That the “interests of justice require a postponement in order to preserve the status quo, because, if the rule took effect while HHS was evaluating the rule in light of the claims raised in litigation, it could create significant obligations for HHS, cause confusion for the public, including Plaintiffs...”;
  • That the agency found the uncertainty caused by the rule “could have serious implications for insurance markets, hospitals, physicians, and patients, among other affected parties”;
  • That it had determined that allowing the rule to take effect would require HHS and the Food and Drug Administration “to immediately divert resources … during the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency,” significantly impacting “actions to address urgent public health matters such as ongoing COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts, outbreaks of foodborne illness, inspections, recalls, and other public health priorities”; and
  • That “based on HHS’s initial review of the Complaint, HHS believes that the Court could find merit in some of Plaintiffs’ claims,” that the automatic expiration of HHS regulations through this kind of rule raises serious legal questions, and that HHS procedures used to issue the rule “may have impeded the full and deliberate consideration of all the potential issues related to” the Rule.

The County of Santa Clara, the California Tribal Families Coalition (CTFC), the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP), the American Lung Association, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) filed a lawsuit over the Sunset Rule on March 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Democracy Forward is litigating the case as counsel for all Plaintiffs, alongside legal teams from the County of Santa Clara, NRDC, and CSPI.

Democracy Forward is litigating the case as counsel for all Plaintiffs, alongside legal teams from the County of Santa Clara, NRDC, and CSPI. Read the complaint in full here. Learn more about the lawsuit here.

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About the County of Santa Clara, Calif.
The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multi-cultural population of 1.9 million residents, more populous than 14 states. The County provides essential services to its residents, including public health protection, environmental stewardship, medical services through the County of Santa Clara Health System, child and adult protection services, homelessness prevention and solutions, roads, park services, libraries, emergency response to disasters, protection of minority communities and those under threat, access to a fair criminal justice system, and many other public benefits. The Office of the County Counsel serves as legal counsel to the County of Santa Clara and is responsible for all civil litigation involving the County and its officers. Through its Social Justice and Impact Litigation Section, the Office litigates high-impact cases, drafts innovative local ordinances, and develops policies and programs to advance social and economic justice. For more information, visit

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Media Contact: María Leticia Gómez/Laurel Anderson, Office of Communications and Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119,​​

Posted: April 23, 2021

Last updated: 4/23/2021 5:01 PM