Way cleared for health care challenge

Lyle Denniston
SCOTUSblog
11/26/2012

The Supreme Court on Monday arranged for a Virginia university to go forward with new challenges to two key sections of the new federal health care law — the individual and employer mandates to have insurance coverage.  The Court did so by returning the case of Liberty University v. Geithner (docket 11-438) to the Fourth Circuit Court to consider those challenges.  The Court last Term had simply denied review of Liberty University’s appeal, but on Monday wiped out that order and agreed to send the case back to the appeals court in Richmond for further review…

…The Court’s decision last Term on the new health care law upheld, under Congress’s power to tax, the requirement that virtually all Americans have health insurance by 2014, or pay a penalty.   That is the individual mandate.  The law also contains a somewhat similar mandate, requiring all employers with more than fifty employees to provide them with adequate insurance coverage.  The Court had declined to rule on that issue last Term.

Liberty University has been pursuing a challenge to both mandates, based on claims that they violate rights to religious freedom or to legal equality under the Constitution.  It also challenges the employer mandate on the theory that it was beyond Congress’s powers under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause.  The Fourth Circuit had not ruled on any of those claims, because it ruled that Liberty was barred by the federal Anti-Injunction Act from suing to stop those mandates.  That is one of the issues the Circuit Court will have to reconsider when the case is returned there. The Justices cleared the way for doing so by vacating and remanding the Circuit Court’s earlier decision.

The Obama Administration did not oppose the action announced Monday.  However, it did tell the Court that it thinks that none of Liberty’s remaining challenges has legal merit and that, in any event, its challenge to the employer mandate was blocked by the Anti-Injunction Act.  Presumably, the Administration will renew those arguments in the Fourth Circuit…

 

Related:   Dismissed Obamacare Lawsuit May Return to Lower Court

…Unless they’ve been living under a rock, most Americans have heard that the Supreme Court decided a constitutional challenge to Obamacare’s infamous Individual Mandate in NFIB v. Sebelius. Plenty of Americans are unaware, however, that out of over 30 cases challenging the Mandate, NFIB was only one of five challenges that were considered serious and credible.

Another one of those major cases was Liberty University v. Geithner, argued by the university’s law school dean Mat Staver, who is also chairman of Liberty Counsel, a public-interest law firm. When the Supreme Court decided NFIB, it denied petitions for review of all the other cases.

Staver filed a petition for rehearing, asking the Court to reconsider because Liberty University was different in several regards from the other cases. Now the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has agreed, saying it does not object to the case being resuscitated.

In addition to making the same arguments about the constitutionality of the Individual Mandate in regards to the Commerce Clause and Congress’ taxing powers, Liberty argues that the mandate violates other constitutional prohibitions. The university contends that Obamacare violates its First Amendment religious freedoms through its funding of abortions and other practices that are contradictory to the religious mission of the university…

…A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit had previously held that these mandates were taxes, and that a federal law called the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA) did not permit any federal court to consider the legality of these taxes/mandates until after they go into effect in 2014. The Fourth Circuit dismissed Liberty University for lack of jurisdiction without even considering the merits of the legal claims…

Will Obamacare Head Back to the Supreme Court? Judge Napolitano Says ‘Not In the Way Those Who Oppose It Would Like’

…In the past, the court has ruled that individuals can’t say religion prevents them from obeying law. However, Judge Napolitano said, “If the Congress directly attacks your religion by forcing you to do something in direct contravention to your beliefs, the Congress can be stopped.”

And the judge believes the court’s decision to hear this challenge is also a political move by Chief Justice John Roberts.

“John Roberts is looking to do a favor for the conservatives who believe he abandoned them last June,” Napolitano said, referring to Roberts’ decision in favor of upholding the individual mandate…

 

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