Supreme Court Rejects Virginia’s Petition For Expedited Review Of ObamaCare Lawsuit
Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court has rejected Virginia’s request for an expedited appeal of its lawsuit challenging the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act:
The Supreme Court rejected a call Monday from Virginia’s attorney general to depart from its usual practice and put review of the health care law on a fast track. Instead, judicial review of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation will continue in federal appeals courts.
The justices turned down a request by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a leading opponent of the law, to resolve questions about its constitutionality quickly. The Obama administration opposed Cuccinelli’s plea.
Only rarely, in wartime or a constitutional crisis, does the court step into a legal fight before the issues are aired in appellate courts. Hearings already are scheduled in May and June in three appeals courts.
The case still could reach the high court in time for a decision by early summer 2012.
Justice Elena Kagan apparently took part in the court’s order Monday, as there was no announcement that any justice sat out. There had been questions about whether she would participate because she served as Obama’s solicitor general when the law was passed. Kagan indicated in Senate testimony last year that she played no role in the administration’s planning and handling of challenges to the law.
So far, five federal judges have ruled on challenges to the law. Two Republican appointees, in Florida and Virginia, have declared it unconstitutional in whole or in part. Three Democratic appointees, in Michigan, Virginia and Washington, D.C., have upheld it.
Cuccinelli filed suit on behalf of Virginia, while 26 states joined in a separate lawsuit in Florida claiming that Congress exceeded its authority in requiring citizens to buy health insurance or pay a penalty starting in 2014.
In asking the high court to pluck the health care cases from the appeals courts before decisions were rendered there, Cuccinelli said delay imposes a “crippling uncertainty” upon the states.
The court gave no reason for it’s decision in this matter, which is typical in these types of cases but one would imagine that they found the Federal Government’s argument that there was no extraordinary reason to bypass the normal appeals process to be persuasive. Additionally, as I previously noted, the ACA cases on appeal are all set to be argued within the next six weeks at the Court of Appeals level:
May 10: Virginia v. Sebelius and Liberty University v. Geithner at the Fourth Circuit (Richmond).
June 1: Thomas More Law Center v. Obama at the Sixth Circuit (Cincinnati).
June 8: Florida v. HHS at the Eleventh Circuit (Atlanta).
One or more of these cases is likely to be decided by the end of the summer. At that point, the losing side will be able to file for direct appeal to the Supreme Court, setting the case on a track for SCOTUS argument in the 2011-12 Term, and a decision from the Supreme Court by June 2012 at the latest.
There are things that could happen to derail this timetable, of course. The Courts of Appeals could take time issuing their decisions, meaning that the time to appeal to the Supreme Court would be pushed back and the case may not get argued until the October 2012 term. Given that all three courts have placed these cases on an expedited calender, though, that seems unlikely. The losing parties at the Courts of Appeals could decide to apply for en banc review by the Court of Appeals before going to the Supreme Court, although that seems unlikely with a case such as this. Finally, of course, the Supreme Court could decline to accept any of these cases but, given that we’re talking about a major piece of federal legislation, that seems very unlikely.
More likely than not, then, the Supreme Court seems on track to issue a decision on whether or not President Obama’s signature legislative achievement is Constitutional right before the start of the 2012 election campaign. That should make things very interesting.