A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] on Thursday granted [order, PDF] the Obama administration's petition to stay his previous order [JURIST report] declaring the health care reform law [HR 3590; JURIST news archive] unconstitutional [order, PDF], on the condition that an appeal is filed within the next week. In January, Judge Roger Vinson voided the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) upon ruling that requiring all Americans over the age of 18 to have health insurance violated the Constitution by exceeding Congress' Commerce Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] power. The stay will allow the administration to continue its implementation of the law in other states until after appellate review. The administration had not formally sought a stay on the injunction, but rather had requested Vinson to "clarify" [JURIST report] his earlier judgment in order to determine its "potential impact" on the implementation of the Act. In his clarification order, Vinson reprimanded the administration for not filing a formal motion, but agreed to stay the injunction in order to expedite the appellate review:
In the time since [the litigation was filed], the battle lines have been drawn, the relevant case law marshaled, and the legal arguments refined. Almost everyone agrees that the Constitutionality of the Act is an issue that will ultimately have to be decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. It is very important to everyone in this country that this case move forward as soon as practically possible.The administration must file its notice of appeal and seek an expedited review from the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] before March 10.
The health care reform law is the subject of numerous legal challenges across the country. There are currently cases in 28 states challenging the provisions of the PPACA and the lower court rulings on issues surrounding the legislation have been mixed. Last month, Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli [official website] filed a petition [JURIST report] for a writ of certiorari [text, PDF] with the US Supreme Court [official website] asking the court to rule on the constitutionality of the law on an expedited basis, before the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] rules on the issue. In January, a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia [official website] dismissed [JURIST report] a lawsuit challenging a provision of the health care reform law. In October, 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.