Breaking News

Health care case advances in court

The Obama Administration and the state of Virginia have moved ahead with a major constitutional case in lower courts on the new federal health care law, filing formal notices that they will appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court in Richmond, Va., a federal judge’s decision — the first to strike down the new law’s requirement that nearly everybody must have health insurance by 2014.   It is unclear whether Virginia will now seek to bypass the Fourth Circuit, and attempt to take the case on to the Supreme Court.  That option is said to be still under consideration.

The government’s notice of appeal is here; Virginia’s is here.   Such filings signal the issues that will be challenged on appeal.  The government will contest District Judge Henry E. Hudson’s ruling in December that Congress had no authority to mandate the private purchase of a health policy.  Virginia will contest Hudson’s refusal to strike down the entire new law and his refusal to issue an order barring the government from enforcing the purchase requirement.  (The appeal notices were filed in Commonwealth of Virginia v. Sebelius, et al., District Court docket 10-188, in the Eastern District of Virginia.)

Another federal judge’s ruling, upholding the health insurance mandate, is already moving forward in the Fourth Circuit.  That case is Liberty University v. Geithner, Circuit Court docket 10-2347.  Briefing began this week in that case.

A federal judge in Florida is considering a challenge not only to the insurance mandate, but to other parts of the broad new law. and has been expected to rule early in the new year.  District Judge Roger Vinson of Pensacola held a hearing on the case on December 16; in that hearing and in an earlier preliminary ruling, he expressed skepticism about the validity of the mandate. A total of 28 states have now joined in the challenge in that case (Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services, District Court docket 10-91 in the Northern District of Florida.)

Meanwhile, in a predictable sign that the fight outside the courts over health care will also continue, especially in Congress, the House of Representatives voted shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday to repeal the entire new law.  The size of the majority in favor of repeal was uncertain at 6 p.m. as voting was continuing, but the outcome was already settled.   (UPDATE 6:26 p.m.  The final vote to repeal was 245 to 189.  A New York Times story on the vote is here.) That measure is not expected to pass in the Senate, and may not even be considered there.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Health care case advances in court, SCOTUSblog (Jan. 19, 2011, 6:01 PM),