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The Health Care Challenge Lands at the Supreme Court

Bypassing the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, today, the Commonwealth of Virginia brought their Affordable Care Act challenge to the Supreme Court’s doorstep. The State calls on the Court to sidestep the normal appellate route and decide now whether Congress, in passing the new health care bill, transgressed its constitutional powers. The petition for writ of certiorari lays out what is at stake:

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (2010), (“PPACA”) imposes complex and significant regulatory changes on all 50 States. Businesses also must come to grips with the intricate requirements of the law and dramatically reorder the way health insurance is provided to their employees. PPACA was challenged from the moment it was signed. A steady drumbeat of new lawsuits continues to punctuate the news. Despite the regulatory overhaul PPACA imposes on the States, uncertainty surrounds the law. In carefully reasoned opinions, two district courts have found that Congress overstepped its authority in enacting all or part of PPACA. Other courts have disagreed, leaving the States and businesses unsure whether PPACA’s complex requirements, or parts of them, will survive. Given the importance of the issues at stake to the States and to the economy as a whole, this Court should grant certiorari to resolve a matter of imperative public importance. 

In addressing the why the Court should allow Virginia to leapfrog the court of appeals, the State notes that “there is a palpable consensus in this country that the question of PPACA’s constitutionality must be and will be decided in this Court.” The State then analogizes the constitutional issues regarding the Affordable Care Act to past issues where the Court granted immediate review.

Such cases include challenges to the legality of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361 (1989), the reorganization of two railroads, New Haven Inclusion Cases, 399 U.S. 392, 418 (1970), a coal strike, United States v. United Mine Workers of America, 330 U.S. 258, 269 (1947), a denial of the power of a federal court to enforce rent control, Porter v. Dicken, 328 U.S. 252 (1946), a constitutional challenge to the Bituminous Coal Conservation Act, Carter v. Carter Coal Co., 298 U.S. 238, 285 (1936), a constitutional challenge to the Railroad Retirement Act, Railroad Retirement Board v. Alton R. Co., 295 U.S. 330, 340 (1935), and the effect of a railroad dispute on the economy of St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis, Kansas City & Col. R.R. Co. v. Wabash R.R. Co., 217 U.S. 247, 250-51 (1910).

It is assumed that the case, officially titled Commonwealth of Virginia v. Sebelius, will be decided through the normal certiorari process. The government will likely file a response brief sometime in the middle of March, unless of course they seek an extension. If the government does file in March and the Court sticks with its normal schedule for deciding certiorari, a decision could be expected as early as Friday, April 15th.

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Articles posted in the Cockle Blog are for informational purposes only. Nothing in the Cockle Blog should be taken for legal advice. In fact, Cockle Blog articles are not a substitute for proper legal research conducted by licensed attorneys.

Cockle Blog will occasionally provide opinions on certain cases and Court procedures. These opinions should be viewed with the recognition that no one can predict with certainty how the Supreme Court will rule on particular cases. Any reliance on articles contained in Cockle Blog must be done at one's own risk.