Appeals Court to Speed Review of Healthcare Ruling

Tuesday, 08 Feb 2011 06:00 PM

The Obama administration’s healthcare plan will get accelerated review of its constitutionality in the U.S. appeals court in Cincinnati, putting the case on the same timetable as two appeals in Virginia.

The court today granted a request for an expedited hearing from the Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based Christian advocacy group seeking to reverse a federal judge’s Oct. 7 decision throwing out its challenge to the law. The case will be scheduled for oral argument during the court’s session of May 30 through June 10.

“We would have preferred an even more expedited schedule, but the government is going to be tied up in Virginia,” said David Yerushalmi, an Arizona lawyer who represents the Thomas More Law Center. “It’s certainly expedited enough for our purposes.”

The center is appealing the decision of U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh in Detroit to throw out its request for an order blocking enforcement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law on March 23, the same day the suit was filed.

Steeh’s decision is one of two rejecting constitutional challenges to the legislative package intended to create almost universal healthcare coverage in part by compelling people over age 18 to obtain minimal coverage or pay a tax penalty.

The Virginia cases are scheduled to be heard during the May 10-13 argument session. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the Virginia case before it can be heard by the appeals court.

The law center’s request for an expedited argument was unopposed by the U.S. Justice Department.

“This essentially puts us on the same track — timing wise — with the Virginia case,” Yerushalmi said.

While U.S. District Judge Norman Moon in Lynchburg, Va., upheld the measure on Nov. 30, two other U.S. judges, Henry Hudson in Richmond, Va., and Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Fla., found the individual mandate portion of the act exceeded the legislative powers of Congress.

Hudson struck down that part of the law, allowing the remainder of it to stand. Vinson ruled that the mandate was essential to the legislative scheme, and ruled the entire act was thus void.

The government, which sought the expedited review in Virginia, also has said it will appeal Vinson’s ruling.

The case is Thomas More Law Center v. Obama, 10-2388, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Cincinnati).

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