Court Dismisses Virginia Challenge to Health Care Law; Panel of 3 Judges Cites Technicalities

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 9, 2011 | Go to article overview

Court Dismisses Virginia Challenge to Health Care Law; Panel of 3 Judges Cites Technicalities


Byline: Paige Winfield Cunningham, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A panel of three federal judges on Thursday dismissed two challenges to President Obama's landmark health care law - including one spearheaded by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II - on procedural grounds, becoming the third appeals court to rule on a case likely headed to the highest court in the land.

In contrast to the other recent court rulings, the judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond didn't rule on the merits of the law. Instead, they took issue with the standing of Mr. Cuccinelli and Lynchburg, Va.-based Liberty University to challenge the law. Some 28 states have filed legal action to block the law, citing in particular the law's requirement that individuals must buy health insurance or pay a penalty.

Because we hold that Virginia lacks standing, we cannot reach the question of whether the Constitution authorizes Congress to enact the individual mandate, wrote Judge Diana Gribbon Motz. The three judges on the panel were all appointed by Democrats, including two by Mr. Obama.

Because the mandate applies only to individuals - and not to the state as a whole - the court concluded that it cannot be challenged by the state. A state has no interest in the rights of its individual citizens sufficient to justify such an invasion of federal sovereignty, Judge Motz wrote.

The judges made a slightly different procedural argument against Liberty University's lawsuit, ruling that the university's lawsuit came too soon. Invoking a law known as the Anti-Injunction Act that bars lawsuits seeking to block collection of a tax, the court said the mandate was effectively a tax and thus can't be challenged prior to its effective date of January 2014.

Until then, it's up to Congress to weigh whether the mandate will be burdensome on taxpayers as Mr. Cuccinelli and Liberty University allege, Judge Motz wrote.

We recognize 'that Congress has imposed' a potentially 'harsh regime' on some taxpayers, she wrote. However .. the question of whether these concerns 'merit consideration' is a matter for Congress to weigh

Judge Andre Davis was the only one to write a dissent, and just for the Liberty University lawsuit.

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Court Dismisses Virginia Challenge to Health Care Law; Panel of 3 Judges Cites Technicalities
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