Appeals Court Throws Out Two Challenges To Healthcare Law.

Rulings  gainst two challenges of the healthcare law on Thursday garnered extensive
media coverage. For the most part, sources considered the outcomes victories
for the Obama Administration, although legal experts caution that ultimately,
the Supreme Court will have to decide the validity of these challenges.
FOX News America Live (9/8, 1:52 p.m. EST) reported that the 4th US
Circuit Court of Appeals “ruled today that two different lawsuits — one
involving the state of Virginia, and one involving Liberty University — would
be tossed out because those parties lacked standing, meaning they actually had
no right to sue federal officials over this new health care law.” FOX
explained that “just as the national law was being passed, the state of
Virginia decided to pass its own state law which essentially says none of its
citizens can be forced to buy health insurance coverage.” But, the appeals
court ruled on Thursday “that is not enough.”
The AP (9/9, O’Dell) reports that the panel of
three judges “ignored the core issue of whether the law can require that
individuals buy health insurance or pay a penalty starting in 2014. In the
lawsuit filed by Liberty University, the court ruled that the penalty amounted
to a tax — and that a tax can’t be challenged before it’s collected.” As
for Virginia, the judges said it “lacked legal standing to file its
lawsuit.” Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli (R) “and
Liberty University attorney Mathew Staver said they plan to appeal Thursday’s
rulings to the Supreme Court.” What remains unclear at this point is
“which case or cases the court will look at, and when that might occur,
said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.”
The Wall Street Journal (9/9, Adamy, Subscription
Publication) quotes Judge Diana Gribbon Motz as saying in the decision against
Virginia, “If we were to adopt Virginia’s standing theory, each state
could become a roving constitutional watchdog of sorts; no issue, no matter how
generalized or quintessentially political, would fall beyond a state’s power to
litigate in federal court.”
The Washington Post (9/9, Kumar, Aizenman) calls
the ruling “a major setback” for Cuccinelli, who “has garnered
significant national attention since being sworn in last year for suing a
federal government that he argues often overreaches — on health care, global
warming and the ability to regulate greenhouse gases.” Cuccinelli said,
“Our disappointment not only stems from the fact that the court ruled against
us but also that the court did not even reach the merits on the key question of
Virginia’s lawsuit — whether Congress has a power never before recognized in
American history: the power to force one citizen to purchase a good or service
from another citizen.”
The Los Angeles Times (9/9, Savage) reports,
“The decision injects a new element into a brewing election-year court
showdown over Obama’s signature accomplishment.” Both opponents and
advocates of the healthcare law “were expecting the US 4th Circuit Court
of Appeals in Richmond to side with the administration” since all members
of the panel had been appointed by Democratic presidents. But, the basis on
which the judges ruled was unexpected. The Times points out that “Obama
administration lawyers have been confident that the high court will ultimately
uphold the law and rule that Congress has broad power to regulate the health insurance
market,” although to date, “the lower courts have been split.”
The New York Times (9/9, A18, Sack, Subscription
Publication) reports that “two of the three judges on the panel
volunteered that they would have upheld the law, known as the Affordable Care
Act, if they had been able to rule on the substance of the cases.”
Notably, the decisions “vacated lower court decisions — one for and one
against the law.”

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