Briefing sped up in health care appeal

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Mar 14, 2011


AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says he applauds a federal appeals court's decision to expedite a challenge to President Barack Obama's new health care law.

"The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order tonight that fast-tracks the states' legal challenge to the federal health care takeover," Abbott said in a statement Friday.

"We applaud the 11th Circuit's order and are encouraged that the federal appeals court recognizes the significance of this case -- and the urgent need for a decision."

Late Friday, the 11th Circuit in Atlanta granted the federal government's motion to expedite the appeal in part.

According to the two-page order, the federal government must file its brief by April 4. The states have until May 4 to file their brief.

The federal government reply brief will be due by May 18, while the states' will be due on May 25.

"No extensions of this briefing schedule will be granted," wrote Chief Judge Joel Frederick Dubina.

The appeals court said the states' petition for an initial review to be held before all 10 federal judges "remains pending."

The U.S. Justice Department, representing the federal government, said the appeal needed expediting because of the "far-reaching nature" of the decision made by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in January.

Vinson, in his Jan. 31 decision, said the federal government is unfairly trying to regulate economic inactivity under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. He granted summary judgment on that issue to the 26 states that have challenged health care reform.

Twenty states, led by Florida, filed the lawsuit last March after Obama signed the legislation into law. Recently, six states joined the effort.

The states are challenging a $695 annual penalty that will be imposed on individuals who do not purchase health insurance. Virginia, in a separate lawsuit, is defending a state law that says none of its residents can be penalized for not purchasing health insurance.

Because the mandate is too integral a part to be separated, Vinson voided the entire legislation. He called it "a difficult decision to reach."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

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