11th Circuit Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down The Affordable Care Act's Individual Mandate

Republicans are always happy when any attempt to help ordinary people is struck down by the corporate-owned courts. So this one's almost certainly going all the way to the Supreme Court!

Reporting from Washington— A federal appeals court struck down a pillar of President Obama's national healthcare law, ruling Congress does not have the power to require all Americans to buy insurance and setting the stage for a Supreme Court decision ahead of the 2012 election.

The 2-1 decision is a victory for Republican leaders in 26 states who challenged the law last year, testing whether the signature accomplishment of Obama's presidency would stand.

The Atlanta-based judges echoed the complaint that the mandate represents an "unprecedented" expansion of federal power.

"The individual mandate is breathtaking in its expansive scope," two judges of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in their 207-page majority opinion.

Even during the Great Depression or World War II, "Congress never sought to require the purchase of wheat or war bonds, force a higher savings rate or greater consumption of American goods," they observed. Though Congress may regulate those who buy insurance, it may not regulate those who "have not entered the insurance market and have no intention of doing so," they said.

[...] The Atlanta-based court has a conservative reputation and had been seen as the best forum for those challenging the law. The majority was made up of Chief Judge Joel Dubina, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, and Judge Frank Hull, a female appointee of President Clinton. The dissenter, Judge Stanley Marcus, was also a Clinton appointee.

So before it makes its way to the Supreme Court, a few other cases have to be settled:

This turns the attention to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is expected to rule on a health-care challenge sometime this month or next. A three-judge panel neard oral arguments in the case, which consolidates challenges brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Liberty University, on May 10. All three are Democratic-appointees: Judges Andre Davis and James Wyan, both picked by President Obama, and Judge Diana Motz, chosen by President Clinton.

“The feeling was the panel in the Fourth in the argument was relatively solicitous of the government’s position,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, who follows the Fourth Circuit closely. “Most people believe the judges will uphold the individual mandate and uphold the statute broadly.”

There are also two other cases in the mix. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati, ruled in June that the law was constitutional. The plaintiff in that case, the Thomas Moore Law Center, has already filed an appeal against that decision. Another case, in the D.C. appellate court, is scheduled for oral arguments on Sept. 23.

No matter how the two undecided cases go, there’s enough disagreement already for the case to be taken up by the Supreme Court, which opens its next term in October. Many expect that the Supreme Court will consider the case this term, which means it has to issue a decision no later than June, 2012. Supreme Court experts expect the justices will take up oral arguments for the case in late spring, leaving enough time to issue a decision in June - right as the presidential election gets into full swing.


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