High Court Plans Debate Over Health Care Reform

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The Supreme Court laid out the briefing schedule for Florida and the government to debate the constitutionality of health care reform, an issue that has divided the federal appeals courts over the last year.



     In taking up Florida’s petition last month, the justices noted that they will resolve three issues at the heart of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
     Most debate over the law has hinged on whether the so-called individual mandate exceeds Congress’ powers under the commerce clause. Set to take effect in 2014, the provision requires most Americans to have insurance.
     The justices will also consider whether this provision can be struck out to preserve the rest of the legislation, and whether the Anti-Injunction Act poses an obstacle to jurisdiction.
     U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Fla., had ruled on Jan. 31 that the act could not survive if the unconstitutional provision was severed. Appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan, Vinson later suspended his declaratory judgment order, which would have stopped implementation of the law pending the appeal.
     The 11th Circuit agreed with Vinson in August that the so-called individual mandate exceeds Congress’ powers under the commerce clause. It concluded, however, that the provision could be struck out to preserve the rest of the law.
     The 6th Circuit and D.C. Circuit upheld the law as constitutional, but the 4th Circuit took another tack, overturning opposing findings as to the law’s constitutionality in Virginia after finding that the commonwealth lacked standing to sue.
     One of two September decisions from the 4th Circuit held that the Anti-Injunction Act strips the courts of jurisdiction because the suit “constitutes a pre-enforcement action seeking to restrain the assessment of a tax.”
     The Supreme Court scheduled briefing on each of these matters in a two-page order Thursday.
     “Upon consideration of the letter of December 5, 2011, from the Solicitor General on behalf of the parties and the amici curiae invited to brief and argue these cases, the following briefing schedule is adopted. On the Minimum Coverage Provision issue (No. 11-398), the brief of the Solicitor General, not to exceed 16,500 words, is to be filed on or before Friday, January 6, 2012. The briefs of respondents, not to exceed 16,500 words, are to be filed on or before Monday, February 6, 2012. The reply brief, not to exceed 6,600 words, is to be filed on or before Wednesday, March 7, 2012. On the Anti-Injunction Act issue (No. 11-398), the brief of the Court-appointed amicus curiae is to be filed on or before Friday, January 6, 2012. The briefs of the Solicitor General and respondents are to be filed on or before Monday, February 6, 2012. Reply briefs of the Solicitor General and respondents are to be filed on or before Monday, February 27, 2012. The reply brief of the Court-appointed amicus curiae is to be filed on or before Monday, March 12, 2012. On the Severability issue (Nos. 11-393 and 11-400), the briefs of petitioners are to be filed on or before Friday, January 6, 2012. The brief of the Solicitor General is to be filed on or before Friday, January 27, 2012. The brief of the Court-appointed amicus curiae is to be filed on or before Friday, February 17, 2012. Reply briefs of the Solicitor General and petitioners are to be filed on or before Tuesday, March 13, 2012.
     “On the Medicaid issue (No. 11-400), the brief of petitioners is to be filed on or before Tuesday, January 10, 2012. The brief of the Solicitor General is to be filed on or before Friday, February 10, 2012. The reply brief is to be filed on or before Monday, March 12, 2012.
     “Other amici curiae shall file separate briefs on each issue they intend to address. The briefs shall be filed within the time allowed under Rule 37.3(a) of the Rules of this Court, except that amici curiae briefs addressing the Severability issue shall be filed on or before the due date for the brief of the party or Court-appointed amicus curiae whose position the brief is supporting. The parties and amici curiae shall identify on the cover of each brief the issue that is addressed in the brief. Amici curiae shall also identify on the cover of the brief the party or parties supported or whether the brief suggests affirmance or reversal, as required by Rule 37.3(a) of the Rules of this Court.”

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