States OK amicus briefs in health care challenge

By John O'Brien | Nov 9, 2010

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is one of the AGs challenging health care reform.

PENSACOLA, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - The 20 states challenging health care reform say they have no problem with any other state filing an amicus brief during the summary judgment phase of their lawsuit.

A notice filed Monday says the states had been asked if they support or object to friend-of-the-court briefs. The states are challenging a provision of health care reform that requires individuals who do not purchase health insurance to pay a yearly penalty of $695.

The states and the federal government filed their motions for summary judgment last week.

"Plaintiffs wish to promote a full and fair consideration of the important issues raised in the cross-motions, and do not want to stifle meaningful debate," the notice says.

"In that regard, Plaintiffs, and in particular the Plaintiff States, are especially mindful of the potential desire of any sovereign State to be heard. Therefore, Plaintiffs consent to the filing of an amicus curiae brief by a sovereign State or Governor if it is otherwise consistent with the applicable Orders of this Court."

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson had rejected the motions of seven states to file amicus briefs regarding the federal government's motion to dismiss four months ago.

"After reading their motions, it appears that the proposed state amici might have positions and arguments that may be helpful to the court during the merits phase of this case," Vinson wrote.

"However, it does not appear that they have anything especially useful to add at the motion to dismiss stage, which is concerned primarily with discrete legal issues such as standing and ripeness."

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell disagreed with their respective state attorney general's decision to join the lawsuit as a plaintiff and had asked to file an amicus brief.

The attorneys general who sought to file an amicus brief were Oregon's John Kroger, Iowa's Tom Miller and Vermont's William Sorrell.

Vinson will also only allow others who wish to file amicus briefs to do so if they can provide a unique perspective into the case. The plaintiff states said they are fine with that, as long as they get a chance to respond.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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