Liberty University Files Appeal to High Court in Health Reform Lawsuit
Liberty University and two individuals on Friday filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision last month by a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal health reform law, theÂ AP/Wall Street Journal reports (AP/Wall Street Journal, 10/10).
In the lawsuit, university officials and five Virginia residents argued that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority by requiring the university and other similar entities and businesses that employ more than 50 people to provide health insurance coverage. Liberty argued that it potentially could face as much as $1.1 million in fines if the requirement is upheld.
The lawsuit also challenged the law's individual mandate and claimed that the law violates the school's and individuals' religious rights because some of the money collected through new insurance regulations would be used to cover abortion, which the Christian university opposes. U.S. District Court Judge Norman Moon in a November 2010 ruling dismissed the university's lawsuit and upheld the constitutionality of the law. The school then appealed to the 4th Circuit Court.
According to a 2-1 decision by the 4th Circuit Court, the plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge the mandate because its financial penalties amount to a tax. The court said it does not have jurisdiction to rule on whether the mandate is constitutional because the federal Anti-Injunction Act requires U.S. residents to wait to oppose a tax until after it is collected.
The 4th Circuit Court is the first court to agree with Obama administration lawyers that the mandate's penalty is a tax (California Healthline, 9/9).
The Liberty petition states, "Petitioners are not challenging the assessment or collection of the non-compliance penalties, which might never be assessed against them and, if they were, would not be assessed before April 15, 2015. It is the mandates and, more particularly, Congress' authority to enact such mandates that is at the heart of this case" (Sherfinski, Washington Times, 10/10).
The university also noted that every other court that has heard related cases has ruled that the penalty is not a tax (AP/Wall Street Journal, 10/10).
Other Health Reform Cases
The Supreme Court now has received petitions to hear four separate health reform cases (Haberkorn, Politico, 10/10).
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) on Sept. 30 filed a petition just two days after the Obama administration and plaintiffs in the multistate lawsuit filed formal requests asking the high court to review another appellate court's ruling that declared the individual mandate in the overhaul unconstitutional (California Healthline, 10/3).
The court is expected to hear at least one of the cases and could combine aspects of others, according to Politico. The Liberty case is the only one to directly address the Anti-Injunction Act, which increases the likelihood that it would be included. The Supreme Court by late November is expected to announce a decision on which, if any, cases it will hear (Politico, 10/10).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.