Judges Review Health Care Law
Appellate Judges Review Health Care Law
Updated: Wednesday, 01 Jun 2011, 5:57 PM CDT
Published : Wednesday, 01 Jun 2011, 5:57 PM CDT
(NewsCore) - The Obama administration's legal defense of its health care overhaul received a mixed reception from a federal appeals court in Cincinnati Wednesday, as judges grappled with the constitutionality of the law's requirement that individuals carry health insurance or pay a penalty.
During 90 minutes of oral arguments, a three-judge panel of the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals pressed the Obama administration on its defense of the health care law. Two of the judges on the panel were appointed by Republican presidents, and both at times asked skeptical questions of the government.
Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, an appointee of George W. Bush, questioned the factual basis Congress used to support its decision to require individuals to maintain health coverage, and he also expressed concern about the insurance mandate itself. "It's just not proper to make people buy things -- that's the point," he said.
The second Republican-appointed judge on the panel, District Court Judge James L. Graham of Ohio, who is participating in the case on a temporary assignment to the appeals court, expressed concern that the Obama administration's arguments favored too broad a view of the power of the federal government.
The third judge on the panel, Boyce F. Martin Jr., a Carter appointee who is considered a liberal vote on the 6th Circuit, was not as tough on the administration's lawyer, Acting US Solicitor General Neal Katyal.
The appeals court left open the possibility that it will not issue a ruling on the merits at all. It questioned whether the plaintiffs in the case had a legal right to bring the lawsuit. To have standing to sue in court, a plaintiff must be suffering a concrete injury. In this case, one of the lead plaintiffs, Michigan resident Jann DeMars, initially said she was being burdened economically by the prospect of having to buy insurance.
The challengers revealed last week that DeMars has since obtained employer-provided insurance. The government argues that the case is now moot because none of the plaintiffs is facing an immediate harm from the law.
The 6th Circuit is the second of three federal appeals courts to consider the health care law during a month-long span. Last month, the Obama administration received a favorable hearing from a panel of the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., which included three judges appointed by Democratic presidents.
Next week, the 11th Circuit in Atlanta will consider the most high profile of the cases: a challenge to the law by a group of 26 states. Those states won a major initial victory in January when a federal district judge in Florida voided the entire law.
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