ACA’s Individual Mandate Wins First Appellate Review

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From The New York Times:

By –Published: June 29, 2011

The Obama administration won the first appellate review of the 2010 health care law on Wednesday as a three-judge panel from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati held that it was constitutional for Congress to require that Americans obtain health insurance.

 The ruling is the first of three opinions to be delivered by separate courts of appeal that heard arguments in the health care litigation in May and June. Opinions are expected soon from panels in both the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., and in the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta.

Lawyers on both sides of the case widely expect the Supreme Court to take one or more of the cases, perhaps as soon as its coming term, which starts in October. The speed of the Sixth Circuit ruling could help ensure that timing.

The Sixth Circuit opinion is the first on the merits that has not broken down strictly along seemingly partisan lines. Two of the judges on the panel were appointed by Republican presidents and one was appointed by a Democrat. At the lower District Court level, five judges have divided on the question, with three Democratic appointees ruling in favor of the law and two Republican appointees rejecting it.

The appeal, which was heard by the court on June 1, came in a challenge to the law filed by the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative public interest law firm in Ann Arbor, Mich. In a 69-page ruling, the panel upheld Judge George C. Steeh of Federal District Court in Detroit, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, who had concluded that choices to not obtain insurance were commercial decisions that could be regulated by Congress.

Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, which is defending the law, said in a statement that the administration welcomed the ruling.

“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,” Ms. Schmaler said. “We believe these challenges to health reform will also fail.”

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