Amicus briefs not likely to be accepted in health care challenge

John O'Brien Jun. 14, 2010, 1:00pm

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - A federal judge has set strict guidelines over who can file amicus briefs in the lawsuit challenging federal health care reform.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson said Monday no one may file a brief in support of or in opposition to the federal government's motion to dismiss the challenge, and it is "unlikely" that he will grant leave to submit briefs on the issue of summary judgment.

Parties are not allowed to submit their thoughts on the motion to dismiss because "it is expected that motion will raise discrete legal or procedural issues for which amici involvement would not be helpful or beneficial.

"Rather, an amicus may only seek to file a brief on the merits, which for purposes of this litigation will be at the summary judgment stage."

Twenty states are challenging the health care reform signed into law in March by President Barack Obama. They say it is unlawful to require individuals to purchase health insurance or face an annual penalty of $695.

Applications for leave to file amicus briefs concerning summary judgment, which would follow if Vinson does not grant the motion to dismiss, can not exceed 10 pages and must be filed within seven days after the brief they are in support of is filed.

Parties who wish to file amicus briefs must demonstrate an interest that will be affected by the case and a unique perspective that can help the court.

"If leave to file an amicus curiae brief is granted --- and, it should be noted, it is perhaps unlikely that leave will be granted in this case --- the brief shall be filed within seven days from the date of the order granting leave to file," Vinson wrote.

"The brief shall not exceed a total of 15 pages."

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has a separate challenge in Virginia federal court. He says the mandate is in contrast to a recently passed state law.

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