For the last two months, we have been following the case making its way through the Sixth Circuit involving a constitutional challenge to the mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance under the recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law 111-148. See Thomas More Law Center, et al. v. Obama, et al. (Sixth Circuit, Case No. 10-2388). Since our last blog entry on the Thomas More Law Center case two weeks ago, there has been a flurry of new activity.
First, nine additional amicus briefs have been filed in the case, each urging the Sixth Circuit to affirm the district court’s decision upholding the individual mandate under the new health care statute. See Amicus Curiae Brief of American Association of People with Disabilities, et al. (PDF); Amicus Curiae Brief of the American Cancer Society, et al. (PDF); Amicus Curiae Brief of the American Hospital Association, et al. (PDF); Amicus Curiae Brief of American Nurses Association, et al. (PDF); Amicus Curiae Brief of Constitutional Law Professors (PDF); Amicus Curiae Brief of Economic Scholars (PDF); Amicus Curiae Brief of the Governor of Washington (PDF); Amicus Curiae Brief of Oregon, Iowa, New York, California, Vermont, Hawaii, Maryland, Delaware, and Connecticut (PDF); Amicus Curiae Brief of Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, et al. (PDF).
Second, last Friday, the plaintiffs in the Thomas More Law Center case filed their reply brief. See Appellants’ Reply Brief (PDF). Plaintiffs continue to argue that there is not a single controlling case that allows Congress to stretch its Commerce Clause authority to regulate intrastate inactivity or, in effect, mere “existence” within the borders of the United States. Plaintiffs contend that upholding the individual mandate under the health care statute would be an unprecedented expansion of congressional power. They highlight how this case “transcends the public debate on healthcare” because “[a]t its core, it is about the constitutional limits of the federal government.”
Finally, just as the briefing in the Thomas More Law Center case was finished, Florida District Judge Roger Vinson made national headlines when he ruled yesterday that the individual mandate under the health care statute is unconstitutional. See State of Florida, et al. v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al., Case No. 3:10-cv-91 (N.D. Fla.). He also ruled that the entire law must be invalidated. As Judge Vinson wrote in his opinion, “Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void. This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications.”
Judge Vinson is the second district court judge to rule that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. As we reported back in December, Virginia District Court Judge Henry Hudson also declared the individual mandate to be unconstitutional. See Commonwealth of Virginia, et al. v. Sebelius (E.D. Va., Case No. 3:10-cv-188) (PDF). Two other federal judges, including Judge George Steeh of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in the Thomas More Law Center case, have upheld the health care law, evening the score at 2 to 2 in the district courts.
The Sixth Circuit is poised to become the first appellate court in the country to rule on the constitutionality of the health care statute, and we’ll continue to watch the case closely as it makes its way to oral argument.