We are continuing to follow 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). If you have been following our blog, you know that the Sixth Circuit last month granted plaintiffs’ unopposed motion to expedite oral argument in the case. See Appellants’ Unopposed Motion to Expedite Appeal (PDF). The Sixth Circuit said it plans to schedule oral argument during its session between May 30 and June 10, 2011. See February 8, 2011 Order (PDF). So far, the Sixth Circuit has not set an oral argument date. But there is news to report on challenges to the health care statute in other Circuits.
Yesterday, the Obama Administration appealed the January 31, 2011 decision by Florida District Judge Roger Vinson striking down the health care statute as unconstitutional because it requires Americans to buy insurance or face a penalty. See Notice of Appeal (PDF) in 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.). The Obama Administration also filed a motion with the Eleventh Circuit seeking to expedite the appeal. See Appellants’ Motion for Expedition in Case No. 11-11021. As we previously reported, Judge Vinson not only ruled that the individual mandate under the health care statute was unconstitutional, he also declared that the entire law must be invalidated. See January 31, 2011 Opinion (PDF). Although Judge Vinson concluded that separate injunctive relief was not necessary, his declaratory judgment was the practical and functional equivalent of one.
Last week, in a March 3, 2011 Order, Judge Vinson agreed to a stay of his January decision, but he also ordered the Obama Administration to file a notice of appeal within seven days of his order as well as to seek expedited review of the decision, either with the Supreme Court or in the Eleventh Circuit. Judge Vinson highlighted that the Thomas More Law Center case is already proceeding on an expedited basis in the Sixth Circuit, as is a similar appeal in the Fourth Circuit. See Commonwealth of Virginia v. Sebelius, Case No. 11-1057 (4th Cir.). (In fact, the State of Virginia is seeking to bypass the Fourth Circuit altogether by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal before the Fourth Circuit rules. See Petition for a Writ of Certiorari Before Judgment in Commonwealth of Virginia v. Sebelius, No. 10-1014 (U.S. Sup. Ct.). The Obama Administration is expected to oppose Supreme Court review at this time.)
Judge Vinson’s message is clear: the constitutionality of the health care statue needs to be decided—and quickly. “The sooner this issue is finally decided by the Supreme Court, the better off the entire nation will be,” wrote Judge Vinson in his March 3, 2011 Order. Of course, we will keep you updated on all the latest developments in the appeals pending before the Fourth, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuits.