Friday, March 18, 2011

Appellate courts move on health reform challenges

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which will review a Florida district court's decision that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, has agreed to an accelerated briefing schedule in the case (State of Florida v. U.S. Dept. of HHS (11-11021-HH)). The court has required all briefs to be filed by May 25, which is even earlier than requested by the Justice Department.

The State of Florida also asked the appellate court to hear the case during the week of June 6 en banc, or by all ten appellate court judges, rather than by a three-judge panel, which is customary for a first argument on appeal. The appellate court has yet to rule on this request.

Virginia cases. Meanwhile, in 2010 two Virginia district courts ruled on the constitutionality of the ACA. One found it to be constitutional (Liberty University v. U.S., No 6:10-cv-00015-nkm); one found it to be unconstitutional (Commonwealth of Virginia v. Kathleen Sebelius (No. 3:10CV188-HEH). Oral argument on both those cases in front of the 4th Circuit is scheduled for May 10 (Virginia v. Kathleen Sebelius, No. 10-1014).

In February the State of Virginia requested that the Supreme Court go ahead and review Virginia v. Sebelius prior to the 4th Circuit's review. The Justice Department has now asked the High Court to deny that request and allow the 4th Circuit review to proceed. "Given the Court of Appeal's imminent consideration of this case, there is no basis for short-circuiting the normal course of appellate review by granting a writ of certiorari before judgment," the DOJ explained in its motion.

For a comprehensive analysis of the ACA, including the full text of the law and additional information on health reform implementation and other recent developments in employee benefits, just click here.


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