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Conflicting Court Decisions on the ACA

Two weeks ago, we reported that a federal judge in Richmond, Virginia dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Last week, another court dismissed a legal challenge to the ACA. This time, New Jersey Federal District Judge Susan D. Wigenton (appointed to the bench by George W. Bush) issued the dismissal.

The decision in New Jersey Physicians Inc. v. Obama, No. 2:10-cv-01489, found the plaintiffs lacked standing to raise their challenges. The case was immediately appealed to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

This is the fifth reform challenge to be dismissed (joining dismissals occurring in the E.D. Mich.; E.D. Tenn.; W.D. Va.; and S.D. Cal.). The Michigan (Thomas More Law Center v. Obama), Virginia (Liberty Univ. v. Geithner) and California (Baldwin v. Sebelius) cases have been appealed to the 6th, 4th, and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals, respectively.


Earlier this morning, a different federal judge in Virginia found the individual mandate provision of the ACA unconstitutional. Judge Henry E. Hudson of the Eastern District Court in Richmond, in a lawsuit filed by Virginia’s Republican attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, ruled that the law’s mandate that all Americans have a minimum level of coverage, or pay a fine if they do not, exceeds federal authority.

Virginia has passed a law stating that residents cannot be ordered to buy insurance, and the state was seeking an injunction against the entire healthcare act if the mandate was found unconstitutional.

This ruling, like the other Virgina court ruling upholding the ACA’s constitutionality, will likely be appealed to the higher courts.