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Fourth Circuit Court Tosses Out Health Reform Challenge

A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court in Virginia tossed out one of the recent challenges to the health reform law. This is the first appeals court to throw out a case for lack of standing after a lower court had ruled on the merits.

The panel ruled that the two plaintiffs – Liberty University (Lynchberg, VA) and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli – did not have standing to bring the case. Virginia had passed a law to bar the mandated purchase of health insurance in the state, in direct conflict with federal reforms passed last March. The Fourth Circuit argued that such a strategy would not work:

“To permit a state to litigate whenever it enacts a statute declaring its opposition to federal law… would convert the federal judiciary into a ‘forum’ for the vindication of a state’s ‘generalized grievances about the conduct of government’… Under Virginia’s standing theory, a state could acquire standing to challenge any federal law merely by enacting a statute — even an utterly unenforceable one — purporting to prohibit the application of the federal law.”

The Eleventh Circuit previously ruled against the health reform law, while the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of it, dramatically increasing the likelihood that the Supreme Court will take up the case.

The decisions for both plaintiffs (Liberty University and Cuccinelli) are available online.

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