The U.S. Supreme Court on April 15 will convene a private conference to consider an appeal by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) for an expedited review of a federal judge's ruling in the state's lawsuit against the federal health reform law, CQ HealthBeat reports (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 3/23).
Background on Lawsuit
In a December 2010 decision on the lawsuit -- in which Cuccinelli challenged the constitutionality of the reform law's individual coverage mandate -- U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson ruled that the mandate is unconstitutional because it exceeds Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. Although Hudson struck down a central provision in the law, his ruling did not invalidate the law or block its implementation.
In formal notices of appeal to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Obama administration argued that Hudson was wrong in his ruling of the mandate, while Virginia officials argued that Hudson should have struck down the entire overhaul. In early February, federal judges in the Fourth Circuit appellate court agreed to move up to May 10 their review of Hudson's ruling. However, Cuccinelli filed a formal petition seeking an expedited review of the ruling in the Supreme Court before it has been fully reviewed in the appeals courts.
Last week, the administration filed formal documents asking the high court to reject Cuccinelli's petition because the appellate court already agreed to expedite its review of Hudson's ruling. Cuccinelli, in a brief filed on Tuesday, argued that "significant damage" would be "inflict[ed]" on states and other entities if the question about the law's constitutionality is not quickly resolved. He added that the Virginia lawsuit warrants rapid consideration by the Supreme Court because it meets the court's requirement of "imperative public importance" (California Healthline, 3/23).
Details of Supreme Court Meeting
According to CQ HealthBeat, under the high court's procedures, all nine justices will discuss and vote in private whether to accept or reject the petition for an expedited review, known as the writ of certiorari. Four justices would have to vote in favor for the review to move forward.
According to Santa Clara University law professor Brad Joondeph, the justices could issue their decision on the day of the meeting. However, the announcement of their decision also could be delayed a few days if one or more justices wish to issue a formal statement (CQ HealthBeat, 3/23).