ATLANTA (Legal Newsline) - A federal appeals court has scheduled arguments in the multistate challenge to federal health care reform.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Thursday denied Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's motion to have the appeal heard by the full roster of judges, instead opting to choose three randomly selected judges who will hear arguments June 8. The order was signed by 11th Circuit Chief Judge Joel Dubina.

"By scheduling oral argument so soon, this decision will allow the case to move forward quickly and hopefully will result in the case being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this fall," Bondi said.

Florida is the lead state in the 26-state lawsuit. 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.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson has already found that Congress was unconstitutionally regulating economic inactivity, and because the mandate is too integral a part to be separated, Vinson voided the entire legislation. 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."

The federal government argues that Congress acted within its authority and that the mandate is vital to the success of the overall package.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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