The Obama Administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a request from Virginia Attorney Gen. Ken T. Cuccinelli II (R) that the high court take the unusual step of expediting review of the state’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law.
A U.S. District Court judge in December found that a requirement in the sweeping health care overhaul that individuals obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a fine is unconstitutional. The U.S. Justice Department has appealed and Cuccinelli has asked that the Supreme Court take take the case immediately, rather than allowing time for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to weigh in.
The appellate court is scheduled to hear the suit in May.
The Justice Department has indicated publicly that while it supported speeding appellate court review, it believed immediate Supreme Court action was unnecessary given that the individual mandate does not go into affect until 2014.
Now, they have formalized that opinion in a legal brief filed with the court late Monday.
“Especially given the court of appeals’ imminent consideration of this case, there is no basis for short-circuiting the normal course of appellate review by granting a write of certiorari before judgement,” the brief says .
Cuccinelli argues Supreme Court action is needed to resolve conflicting lower court rulings--a Florida judge has also ruled the law unconstitutional in a suit filed jointly by 26 states, while other judges in Virginia and the District have found the statute passes constitutional muster. Cuccinelli says businesses and state governments need the uncertainty over the law’s legality to be settled.
In Monday’s filing, lawyers for the federal government agree that the constitutionality of the mandate is “of great public importance.” But they say Cuccinelli has provided “no persuasive reason” why the case is one of those rare instances that requires immediate intervention from the Supreme Court under Rule 11 of the court’s procedures.
They note that even if the Supreme Court granted Cuccinelli’s request, it would be unlikely to be able to hear the case before the next court term, which begins in the fall. Even if the justices wait for the appeals courts currently reviewing the Virginia and Florida cases to rule, they could still likely hear the case during their next term.
“Accordingly, granting certiorari before judgment in this case would not necessarily result in significantly accelerating this Court’s review of the constitutionality of the minimum coverage provision,” the government’s brief says.
The Supreme Court has chosen to take cases before appellate court review in only a handful of instances in the past and legal experts have said it is unlikely to grant Cuccinelli’s request.