SCOTUS firms up health challenge timeline

at 02:33 PM ET, 10/26/2011

Mark your health wonk calendars: the Supreme Court will take a possible first step on the health reform’s constitutional challenges on Nov. 10. More on what that means from the ever-insightful SCOTUSblog, which broke the news this morning:

The Supreme Court will take its first look at the challenges to the new federal health care law at its Conference on Thursday, November 10.  Five of the six pending petitions (the sixth is not ready yet) were distributed to the Justices’ chambers on Wednesday, for consideration at that private session.  Although a grant of review is not assured, that is highly likely, since all sides agree that the Court should take on the controversy, and the constitutionality of a key provision of the new law has been decided differently by federal appeals courts.

The Supreme Court will announce the results of its conference by Nov. 14. This won’t be a verdict on the health reform law. But it does have the potential to tell us a decent amount about the factors that will shape the verdict. As SCOTUSblog notes, the Justices will have to decide which, if any cases, they want to take up. Right now, six challenges have piled up on their desk, all from different jurisdictions and with different histories. In the Nov. 10 conference, the Justices will examine five of those (the sixth isn’t ready yet).

When they look over the cases, the Justices will look at what issues they’re ready to opine on: while most of the focus has centered on the mandated purchase of health insurance, some cases challenge other issues, like the health reform law’s Medicaid expansion. It also will be up to the Court to decide the logistics of the trial: how to line up the lawyers and how much time to allow for oral arguments.  So while we won’t have a verdict by mid-November, we could have a pretty decent sense of what the path to a final ruling looks like.

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