The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) [advocacy website] on Wednesday filed [press release] a petition for writ of certiorari [text, PDF] in the US Supreme Court [official website] asking for review of an appeals court ruling declaring the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [HR 3590 text; JURIST Feature] constitutional. The petition comes in response to a June ruling [JURIST report] by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] finding PPACA's individual mandate provision constitutional. TMLC, along with four individual plaintiffs, seek a declaration that Congress lacks authority under the Commerce Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] to pass such a law. The plaintiffs contend that the individual mandate provision falls outside the regulation of "economic activity," and is therefore not authorized by the Commerce Clause:
The Act does not regulate economic activity, but rather the decision to not engage in commercial or economic activity. Consequently, the Act does not even pretend to fit within any of the Court’s previous Commerce Clause rulings. The individual mandate attaches to a legal resident of the United States who chooses to sit at home and do nothing. This resident, quite literally, merely exists (i.e., he is “living” and “breathing”). He or she is neither engaged in economic activity nor in any other activity that would bring him or her within the reach of even a legitimate regulatory scheme.The group says that "review is necessary to establish a meaningful limitation on congressional power." The TMLC lawsuit is the first PPACA challenge to petition the Supreme Court out of the many lawsuits in the circuit courts.
Similar cases challenging the constitutionality of PPACA are being heard in federal courts across the nation. In June, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] heard arguments [JURIST report] regarding the constitutionality of the individual mandate. Earlier in June, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] heard arguments [JURIST report] concerning the mandate's constitutionality. The appeal was brought by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] after the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] struck down the entire health care law because the individual mandate exceeds Congress's authority [JURIST report] under the Commerce Clause. Also last month, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] decided it could rule on two challenges to PPACA after the court requested briefs [JURIST report] from all parties on whether the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA) [text], which prevents injunctions against taxes before the tax is imposed, would bar review of PPACA until it is implemented. The Fourth Circuit already heard arguments [JURIST report] in May to resolve a split decision between the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruling against the individual mandate and the Western District of Virginia dismissing a challenge [JURIST reports] of the law.
For more, see JURIST's Feature on Health Care Reform.