DOJ Says Supreme Court Should Not Review Reform Lawsuit Early
On Monday, the Obama administration filed court documents asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a petition by Virginia state officials to review a federal judge's ruling in the state's lawsuit against the federal health reform law before it has been fully adjudicated in an appeals court, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 3/14).
In February, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) -- who filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the reform law's requirement that nearly all U.S. residents obtain health coverage by 2014, or pay a penalty -- submitted a formal petition seeking an expedited review of U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson's ruling in the case.
In his December 2010 decision, Hudson ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional because it exceeds Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. Although it marked the first time that a judge had struck down a central provision in the law, Hudson's ruling did not invalidate the law or block its implementation.
Virginia officials and the Obama administration later filed formal notices of appeal to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. The Department of Justice argued that Hudson was wrong in his ruling of the mandate, while Virginia officials argued that Hudson should have struck down the entire overhaul (California Healthline, 2/4).
Early last month, federal judges in the Fourth Circuit appellate court agreed to move up to May 10 their review of Hudson's ruling (California Healthline, 2/16).
In the brief filed on Monday, DOJ said there is no reason for the Supreme Court to take the rare step of "short-circuiting" a review by appellate judges because the mid-level court already agreed to expedite its review (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 3/14). DOJ also noted that the health insurance requirement is not scheduled to be implemented until 2014, which means that "[t]here will be ample time before 2014 for this Court to decide whether to grant review in the normal course and, if it does so, to issue a decision."
According to the "SCOTUS Blog," Virginia officials will have the opportunity to submit a response to the administration's opposition (Denniston, "SCOTUS Blog," 3/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.