Va. health-care ruling will be appealed, Justice Department says
Lawyers for President Obama will appeal a judge's ruling Monday that a key provision of the federal health-care law is unconstitutional, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday.
The appeal was widely expected in response to a ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson that Congress overstepped its constitutional authority by requiring individuals to obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a fine.
The Justice Department also wants the case to proceed as normal for a such a case and be heard next by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. Virginia Attorney Gen. Ken T. Cuccinelli II (R), who brought the case on behalf of the Commonwealth, had asked the Obama administration to join him in requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court expedite the case and bypass circuit court review.
In an interview, Cuccinelli said he would have been "heart-stoppingly shocked" if the Justice Department had not appealed. However, he said he had not yet heard from lawyers in the case about his request for expedited appeal.
He said he was "disappointed" that the Justice Department would release a public statement about the issue before contacting his office about a topic they've been discusing quietly for weeks. He said he has not yet decided whether to request Supreme Court intervention in the absence of Justice Department cooperation.
"We will huddle here in the office and decide how to proceed," Cuccinelli said.
"This is one of a number of cases concerning the Affordable Care Act pending before courts around the country, including four in which challenges to the law were unsuccessful that are already being heard by courts of appeals, including one by the Fourth Circuit," Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said in a statement. "Virginia's suit is based on a state statute that is not applicable nationwide, and the Department believes this case should follow the ordinary course of allowing the courts of appeals to hear it first so the issues and arguments can be fully developed before the Supreme Court decides whether to consider it."
"As Judge Hudson noted in denying an injunction, the individual responsibility provision does not go into effect until 2014, so there is more than sufficient time for the courts to consider this case in their normal course of business," she said.
Legal experts say it would be exceedingly rare for the Supreme Court to accept the case before the circuit court has a chance to weigh in.
Republicans in Virginia had sought to apply political pressure, however, to the Justice Department to encourage them to sign on to the request for a speedy review. They argued that both sides would benefit from a quick resolution of the legal dispute. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) is asking other governors to sign on to a letter encouraging the Justice Department to go along with the expedited process.
This item has been updated since it was first posted.
Rosalind S. Helderman
| December 14, 2010; 3:28 PM ET
Categories: Ken Cuccinelli, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman
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