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Obama's Health Care Law Argued in Federal Appeals Court

Dynamic Graphics/Thinkstock(RICHMOND, Va.) -- A panel of three Federal Appeals Court judges Tuesday expressed skepticism of legal arguments against the Obama administration's health care law during a hearing in Richmond, Va.

Two hotly-contested cases, argued in the courtroom Tuesday, challenge the constitutionality of a key provision of the landmark law, which requires individuals to buy health care insurance by 2014 or face a tax penalty.

All three judges on the panel were appointed to the circuit by Democratic presidents -- two by President Obama and a third by President Bill Clinton. The judges were randomly picked by a computer program.

Matt Staver, a lawyer for Liberty University, an evangelical Christian school challenging the law, argued in the first case that the so-called "individual mandate" is unconstitutional because Congress does not have the authority to force Americans to participate in a marketplace.

Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal defended the health care law's individual insurance mandate, saying that Congress was within its authority to regulate interstate commerce under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

In a second case heard by the appellate panel, the judges also seemed skeptical of the whether or not the state of Virginia has the legal right, or "standing," to bring the case.

E. Duncan Getchell Jr., the Solicitor General of Virginia, argued that his state does have the right to challenge the law because it interferes with a state law already on the books. He said that residents cannot be forced to buy health insurance.

Two other appellate courts will hear similar challenges to the law this spring. Court watchers believe the issue could reach the U.S. Supreme Court sometime during the term that begins in the fall of 2011.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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