Both the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] and a group of 26 states filed petitions with the US Supreme Court [official website] Wednesday seeking a ruling on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [HR 3590 text; JURIST backgrounder]. The petitions for certiorari filed by the DOJ and states [petitions, PDF] seek review of a decision handed down by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] last month. The Eleventh Circuit found the PPACA individual health care mandate unconstitutional [JURIST report] but upheld the remainder of the law without the mandate. The states asked the court to affirm the Eleventh Circuit's decision regarding the individual mandate requirement. The states also sought review of the PPACA as a whole, arguing that the act must fail because the individual mandate was "the centerpiece" of the entire piece of legislation. The DOJ asked the court to reverse the Eleventh Circuit's decision, arguing that it was "fundamentally flawed" and that Congress has "broad deference" to enact laws regarding economic and tax policies. In a statement [text], the DOJ expressed confidence that the Court would find the law constitutional and compared the PPACA lawsuits to other historical legislative challenges:
Throughout history, there have been similar challenges to other landmark legislation such as the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act, and all of those challenges failed. We believe the challenges to [PPACA]like the one in the Eleventh Circuitwill also ultimately fail and that the Supreme Court will uphold the law.Additionally, the Obama Administration filed a brief [text, PDF] in opposition to a petition for certiorari filed [JURIST report] in Thomas More Law Center v. Obama in July, which sought review of a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] that found the individual mandate provision constitutional [JURIST report]. The administration asked the court to either delay review of that decision or to consolidate the two cases.
Lawsuits involving the constitutionality of the PPACA have led to split decisions in federal courts across the country. Earlier this month, a judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website] found the individual mandate provision unconstitutional [JURIST report]. Also this month, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] dismissed two lawsuits [JURIST report] challenging the constitutionality of the PPACA. In Virginia v. Sebelius, the court held that Virginia lacked standing to sue and vacated the judgment of the district court [JURIST report], remanding the case with instructions to dismiss the suit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. In Liberty University v. Geithner, the court ruled that the suit was filed prematurely, also vacating the lower court ruling [JURIST report], which had declared the act constitutional. Last month, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] dismissed a lawsuit [JURIST report] brought by a physician organization for lack of standing.