Entries in Appeals Court (3)


Appeals Court Judges Skeptical of Health Care Law’s Defense

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Friday, in a lawsuit brought by four individuals who said the law violated their religious freedom, expressed skepticism about  the constitutionality of a key provision of the health care law.

At issue before the three-judge panel was the individual mandate,  a central provision of the Affordable Care Act, which requires individuals to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Beth  S. Brinkmann, the lawyer arguing for the Obama administration, said that Congress was well within its authority to pass the law, because health care costs across the country had spiraled out of control, and the Constitution authorized Congress to regulate interstate economic activity.

But Judge Laurence H. Silberman, appointed to the federal bench by President Reagan, questioned the limits of the government’s authority.

“What limiting principles do you articulate?” he asked Brinkmann. “What kind of mandate could the government come up with that would be unconstitutional?”

Silberman described a hypothetical situation in which the government could force an individual to buy a car.

Brinkmann responded that the mandate was not about a purchase but a type of financing. She called health care a unique market because it affects every individual sometime during their lives.

Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, who was nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush, told Brinkmann he worried that if her position was upheld, down the road the government might  come back to court seeking to have other mandates in other markets upheld.

“Ten years from now,” he said, “I can see it coming.”

Judge Harry T. Edwards, appointed to the bench by President Jimmy Carter, suggested support of Brinkmann’s position that health care should be differentiated from other markets.

Two of the four plaintiffs challenging the health care law on religious grounds said they didn’t want to be forced to buy health insurance because they believed that God would take care of them, and they didn’t want to have to pay a penalty if they opted out.

In court, their lawyer, Edward L. White III of the American Center for Law and Justice, said that the Constitution did not have the authority to “force” his clients into a marketplace. One of the plaintiffs, Charles Edward Lee, said he believed in faith healing. White told the judges the mandate was “radical” and that while the Commerce Clause might allow Congress to regulate interstate economic activity, Congress did not have the right to regulate “inactivity” or the choice not to participate in the health care market.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is the fourth appellate court to hear arguments. One court has struck down the mandate, another has upheld it and a third dismissed the challenge on jurisdictional grounds.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Health Care Law: Obama Administration Returns to Court

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Lawyers for the Obama administration will once again head to court on Friday to defend the health care reform law, this time from challengers who argue it violates their religious freedom.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will be the 4th appellate court to hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

At issue is a key provision of the law -- the individual mandate -- that requires individuals to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty.

The mandate has been challenged in courts across the country.  So far, one appeals court has upheld it, another has struck it down and a third dismissed two challenges on jurisdictional issues.

The Obama administration has consistently argued that Congress was well within its authority to pass the mandate because health care costs across the country were spiraling out of control.

The challenge in the D.C. circuit, Susan Seven-Sky v. Eric Holder, is brought by a conservative religious group representing four citizens.  The group believes that the law violates members' religious beliefs, and says that Congress had no authority to force them into the marketplace to buy health insurance when members believe that God will protect them.

The religious group's members and lawyers at the American Center for Law and Justice argue in briefs, "The individual mandate substantially burdens their religious exercise by requiring them to either indefinitely maintain health insurance, which they sincerely believe would violate their religious belief that God will protect them from illness or injury, or pay annual penalties for declining to violate their faith."

While the ACA does offer some religious exemptions, some of the law's challengers do not qualify.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Healthcare: Appeals Court Skeptical of Administration's Argument?

Comstock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- A lawyer for the Obama administration told a panel of federal judges on Wednesday that healthcare is a "universal feature of our existence" and that Congress was well within its authority in passing a sweeping healthcare law.

But the judges seemed, at times, skeptical of some of the key arguments made by Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal on behalf of the government.

Twenty-six states are challenging the constitutionality of the law, the Affordable Care Act, and arguing that it should be struck down.

At the heart of the case is the key provision of the law, the individual mandate, that requires individuals, with few exceptions, to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty.

The case was heard by three judges from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the third appellate court to hear a challenge to the law considered the signature legislative achievement of the Obama administration.

Paul Clement, representing the states, said that Congress exceeded its authority in passing the individual mandate because it forces people into the marketplace. Clement said the case turns on "whether or not the federal government can compel an individual to engage in commerce."

The judges began by asking the government whether the case is unprecedented.

Chief Judge Joel G. Dubina asked the government whether there would be any limits to Congress' reach if the court upheld the individual mandate.

Katyal said that healthcare is a unique market because "every single person can't guarantee that they won't need healthcare," adding that the mandate was "all about financing" how healthcare could be paid for.

Judge Stanley Marcus pressed again on the issue of precedent.

Katyal said the case wasn't about the government forcing someone to buy a product. It was about how to regulate the payment of a product that every American will eventually need. He noted that in 2008 the cost of the uninsured was $43 billion, and those costs were shifted to other participants in the healthcare system across the country. He said that the commerce clause of the Constitution empowers Congress to regulate such interstate commerce.

Clement argued that although Congress may have the right to regulate interstate commerce, it doesn't have the authority to "compel people to engage."

Former Acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, who attended the arguments and believes the law is constitutional, said Wednesday's panel of judges asked "more skeptical questions of each side and, perhaps, asked more skeptical questions of the government" than a panel of judges who heard a similar case in Virginia. The panel in that case was comprised of three judges who were nominated to the bench by Democratic presidents and they seemed openly skeptical of the arguments of those challenging the healthcare law.

Judge Dubina was appointed by President George H.W. Bush, while Hull and Marcus were both Clinton nominees.

Elizabethe Wydra, the chief counsel of the Constitutional Accountability Center who filed a brief in defense of the law, noted that this is the third appellate court to hear arguments.

"Many of the judges, whether considered to be conservative or liberal, recognize that the decision not to buy health insurance is, in fact, an economic decision," she said. "Supreme Court precedent makes clear that Congress has authority to regulate such economic activity."

But Florida's attorney general, Pam Bondi, who attended the arguments and is opposed to the law, said afterwards, "The federal government could not rebut our argument that the individual mandate is an unprecedented intrusion on individual liberty."

The case is expected ultimately to reach the Supreme Court.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio