The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] on Thursday dismissed two lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [HR 3590 text; JURIST backgrounder]. In Virginia v. Sebelius [opinion, PDF], 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. Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote:
[T]he lack of factual context here impedes analysis of the underlying constitutional disputes. For example, both parties premise their Commerce Clause arguments on their competing characterizations of what the individual mandate regulates. A number of factors might affect the validity of these characterizations, including a taxpayer's current possession of health insurance, current or planned future consumption of health care, or other related voluntary action. The case at hand lacks the concrete factual context critical to a proper analysis of these issues.In Liberty University v. Geithner [opinion, PDF], the court ruled that the suit was filed prematurely, also vacating the lower court ruling [JURIST report], which had declared the act constitutional.
Although the Fourth Circuit dismissed the case without deciding the constitutionality of PPACA, the US Supreme Court [official website] may eventually rule on the issue. Last month, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] struck down the individual mandate [JURIST report] as unconstitutional, creating a circuit split. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] had upheld the law in June, and that ruling was appealed [JURIST reports] to the Supreme Court by the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) [advocacy website]. Also 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.