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Obama administration clears path for Supreme Court to rule on health care mandate

The Obama administration on Monday declined to seek en banc review by the full US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official websites] of its August decision striking down the individual mandate provision [JURIST report] of the health care reform law [JURIST backgrounder], clearing the path for an appeal to the US Supreme Court [official website]. The decision could mean that the Supreme Court will hear the case during its 2011 term and that a ruling could come as early as June. The court is expected to agree to hear the case because there is a circuit split on the issue. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] 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]. JURIST Guest Columnist Steven Schwinn of the John Marshall Law School in Chicago recently argued that the Eleventh Circuit ignored the text, history and jurisprudence of the Constitution in its recent health care ruling, which will likely not be adopted by the Supreme Court [JURIST op-ed] given recent rulings on congressional Commerce Clause authority.

Other courts have also weighed in on the constitutionality of the individual mandate provision. Earlier this month, a judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website] ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional [JURIST report]. Also in September, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] dismissed two lawsuits [JURIST report] challenging the mandate's constitutionality. 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.

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