States file brief supporting health care challenge

Jessica M. Karmasek May 25, 2011, 12:00pm


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, along with 13 other state attorneys general, filed an amicus brief Monday in support of a separate legal challenge to the federal health care law.

The states' amicus brief in Seven-Sky v. Holder, filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, explains that the law's individual mandate -- requiring that all Americans purchase health insurance or face a penalty -- violates the U.S. Constitution.

"The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is an extraordinary law that rests on unprecedented assertions of federal authority, pushing even the most expansive conception of the federal government's constitutional powers past the breaking point," the 14 states wrote in the brief.

"The federal government embraces a sweeping view of the Commerce Clause... that would imperil individual liberty, render Congress' other enumerated powers superfluous, and allow Congress to usurp the general police power reserved to the States."

The states' amicus brief supports a legal challenge filed by Susan Seven-Sky and four other plaintiffs in June 2010.

The 14 states, along with 12 others, filed their own challenge to President Barack Obama's federal health care reform in March 2010.

In January, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson sided with the 26 states, ruling that the individual mandate violates the Constitution and issued an order striking down the federal health care law.

Vinson said he voided the entire legislation in the multistate lawsuit because the mandate is too integral a part to be separated. He called it "a difficult decision to reach."

"If Congress intends to implement health care reform -- and there would appear to be widespread agreement across the political spectrum that reform is needed -- it should do a comprehensive examination of the Act and make a legislative determination as to which of its hundreds of provisions and sections will work as intended without the individual mandate, and which will not," he wrote.

"It is Congress that should consider and decide these quintessentially legislative questions, and not the courts."

While the states' challenge prompted Vinson to declare the law unconstitutional, the district court ruled against the Seven-Sky plaintiffs. As a result, they appealed their case to the federal court of appeals. The states' brief supports the plaintiffs' appeal.

The 43-page brief will be introduced during oral arguments in the case, scheduled for Sept. 23.

Those states joining Texas in the amicus brief include: Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin.

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