First Health Care Appeal on Supreme Court's Docket
The first full-blown appeal of the myriad challenges to the health reform law has landed on the United States Supreme Court’s docket (if you’re OCD, it’s No. 11-117). Although this is not really the first request that the Supreme Court address the law’s constitutionality, it is the first appeal of an appellate court ruling on the issue.
The truly first request came with Baldwin v. Sebelius, which was an attempt to directly appeal to the Supreme Court and bypass the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court refused to take the case.
However, Thomas More Law Center v. Obama is the first full-blown appeal that has landed at the Court after being considered by a lower appellate court. This case arose from a challenge mounted in Michigan and wound its way through the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Thomas More Law Center claimed that the individual mandate provision, which requires the purchase of health insurance, is unconstitutional because it violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
The Sixth Circuit split on the issue and did not address the merits of the constitutional challenge. The reason for the indecision stems from Thomas More’s decision to mount it as a facial challenge, which is a difficult argument to win. Now, however, they have added an “as-applied” challenge but the Supreme Court is unlikely to consider this argument because it was not raised with the Circuit Court.
The Thomas More case is likely the first of many that will wind up at the Supreme Court. Although the case was filed in time to be considered with the beginning of the Court’s term this October, it is unclear if the Court will actually accept this case. Instead, the Court may wait until a case comes along where the lower appellate court actually addresses the merits of the issues. There’s not bound to be any shortage of those.