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ACLJ appeals dismissal of health care reform lawsuit

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) [advocacy website] Tuesday is seeking reinstatement of its dismissed lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the health care reform law [text; JURIST news archive]. The ACLJ filed an appeal [brief, PDF] in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] asking the court to reverse a lower court decision to dismiss the lawsuit [JURIST report] last February, and enjoin the enforcement of the the part of the health reform law known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The brief argues PPACA's mandate that individual citizens purchase and maintain health insurance is unconstitutional because it is beyond Congress' power under the Commerce Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder]. The brief says:

The individual mandate is unconstitutional because it exceeds even the outermost bounds of Congress's Article I authority and is inconsistent with the constitutional system of dual sovereignty that divides power between the federal and State governments. ... Congress cannot 'regulate' inactivity by requiring individuals to buy a good or service as a condition of their lawful residence in the United States, and Congress does not have carte blanche to include unconstitutional provisions within a larger scheme of commercial regulation.
The brief further argues that the PPACA violates the two of the plaintiff's rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) [42 USC § 2000bb text] because they believe the individual mandate "would violate their religious belief that God will protect them from illness or injury" or force them to have to pay penalties for refusing to violate their faith. The ACLJ also filed amicus briefs in challenges to the health care reform law by the states of Florida and Virginia.

Last February, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] dismissed the ACLJ's lawsuit, ruling that Congress acted within its constitutional powers in passing the health care reform law. The court also found that the RFRA was not violated since the PPACA allows individuals to make a payment in lieu of coverage and the individual mandate is essential to the PPACA. The court concluded that the individual mandate was not a substantial burden on the plaintiffs' Christian faith and it is the "least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest." Also last February, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) asked federal judge Roger Vinson to clarify that states must continue to enact the PPACA as the government appeals from Vinson's January ruling finding the law unconstitutional [JURIST reports]. There is also an ongoing challenge in Virginia over a split decision in the US district courts with the Eastern District of Virginia ruling against individual mandate provision and the Western District of Virginia dismissing a challenge [JURIST reports]. In October, a federal judge in Michigan ruled [JURIST report] that the law is constitutional under the Commerce Clause.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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