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Supreme Court declines to hear first challenge to health care law

The US Supreme Court [official website, JURIST news archive] on Monday declined to hear [order list, PDF] the first preliminary challenge to the recently enacted health care reform law [text; JURIST news archive]. Former California lawmaker Steve Baldwin, along with the Pacific Justice Institute [advocacy website] filed for a writ of certiorari in September, asking the court to review [cert. petition, PDF] the split among district courts over who may or may not sue to challenge the health insurance mandate. Baldwin originally filed suit in the US District Court for the District of Southern California [official website] where it was determined that he lacked standing [opinion text] because he failed to prove that he had suffered any injury. District Judge Dana Sabraw dismissed the case but conceded that Baldwin would be able to pursue it again if he could prove he sustained an injury from the Act. Subsequent to the district court ruling, Baldwin filed an appeal in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is still pending. Baldwin's suit is aimed at various federal government officials, including those in the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor, which has also raised the question of whether Justice Elena Kagan [JURIST news archive], as former solicitor general, will recuse herself in cases where she previously played that role. The Supreme Court's order list denying review gives no indication that she will.

Although it was seen as unlikely that the Supreme Court would grant certiorari on a district court issue, commentators predict that the health care bill will eventually become an issue for the court. Last week, voters in Arizona and Oklahoma approved measures to amend their state constitutions to make the individual insurance mandate unenforceable [JURIST report] in their states. In October, a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida denied a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a lawsuit brought by a group of attorneys general challenging the constitutionality of the health care law. The lawsuit, filed in March and joined by 20 states and the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) [JURIST reports], seeks injunctive and declaratory relief against what it alleges are violations of Article I and the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution, committed by levying a tax without regard to census data, property or profession, and for invading the sovereignty of the states. Also last month, a judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled [JURIST report] that the individual insurance mandate was constitutional. In August, a judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia denied a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a suit brought against the bill for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, conceding that Virginia had standing in alleging the federal bill conflicted with state law.

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