For the last several 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). Yesterday, the Sixth Circuit granted plaintiffs’ unopposed motion to expedite oral argument in this case. See Appellants’ Unopposed Motion to Expedite Appeal (PDF). The Sixth Circuit plans to schedule oral argument during its session between May 30 and June 10, 2011. See February 8, 2011 Order (PDF). We’ll let you know when the oral argument date is set, along with the three-judge panel that will hear the case. The Sixth Circuit generally reveals panels two weeks prior to oral argument.
If you have been following our blog, you are aware that several constitutional challenges to the health care statute have been filed nationwide. The Thomas More case was the first case to reach an appellate court on the merits regarding the constitutionality of the individual mandate. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, already has agreed to hear oral arguments in mid-May in an appeal from a district court decision declaring the individual mandate under the health care statute to be unconstitutional. It will be interesting to see whether the Fourth Circuit or the Sixth Circuit renders a decision first. Both courts clearly recognize that their decision will have national implications, and thus they see no value in delay.
Many legal observers expect that the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately will agree to take on the politically explosive issue of whether the health care statute is constitutional (and, in the process, resolve any splits between the Circuits that could arise). Randy Barnett, a law professor at Georgetown University, predicts that the Supreme Court case will involve a 5 to 4 decision. The problem is that neither he nor anyone else is sure which way the 5 to 4 will go. Stay tuned, because the Sixth Circuit is preparing to address the issue.