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A federal appeals court in the state of Virginia junked two challenges to the 2010 health-care law of the Obama administration, saying that it lacked the authority to rule on the constitutionality of the measure.
With the rulings, the Richmond appellate court became the second U.S. appellate panel this year to leave the legislation intact after judges in the lower-court ruled on its constitutionality. The rulings came in separate cases, which challenged the requirement of the statute of obliging individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty. That mandate was thrown out by a third appeals court.
The decisions broaden the array of opinions on health-care law among intermediate federal courts, a division that possibly only the U.S. Supreme Court can resolve.
Stephen Presser, a law professor in Northwestern University, when asked for his reaction on the decision of the court to dismiss the challenges on jurisdictional grounds, said, “I was a little surprised. I expected them to talk about the constitutional issue.”
The judges in both rulings junked the cases, stating that the court lacked jurisdiction. In one of the cases, the judges said that a statute which in general blocks lawsuits that challenge the collection or assessment of taxes prevents them from making a ruling on the health-insurance mandate. In the other case, they said that the state of Virginia does not have the legal right to bring its lawsuit.
Stephanie Cutter, a deputy senior adviser and assistant to the president, in a White House blog post stated, “This decision is another victory for the Affordable Care Act.” Cutter pointed out the observations of two of the judges in one of the cases that they would have found the law to be in accordance with the constitution.