The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Tuesday appealed a ruling that found the minimum coverage provision of the recently enacted health care reform law [HR 3590 text; JURIST news archive] unconstitutional. The government filed a notice of appeal [text, PDF] in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website], signaling its intent to challenge Judge Henry Hudson's December finding [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that an individual's decision to purchase health insurance is beyond the reach of Congress and outside the purview of the Commerce, Necessary and Proper, General Welfare and Taxation powers enumerated in the US Constitution [text]. Hudson declined to issue injunctive relief at the time and anticipated the appeal, saying that "the award of declaratory judgment is sufficient to stay the hand of the executive branch pending an appeal." The appeal will proceed before the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website], and it is believed that the challenge will eventually advance to the Supreme Court.
Hudson's ruling marked the first time a court struck down part of the health care legislation despite numerous legal challenges. Also in December, a judge for the US District Court for the District of New Jersey [official website] granted a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a lawsuit [case materials] brought by a physician organization challenging the law, and a similar challenge filed by Liberty University [academic website] was dismissed [JURIST report] by a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia [official website]. In October, a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] 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 [complaint, PDF], filed in March and joined by more than 20 states [JURIST reports] and the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) [association website; JURIST report], 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. A week earlier, a federal judge in Michigan ruled [JURIST report] that the law is constitutional under the Commerce Clause as it addresses the economic effects of health care decisions, and that it does not represent an unconstitutional direct tax.