The Supreme Court Just Paved The Way For Another Obamacare Fight


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The Supreme Court on Monday arranged for a Virginia university to go forward with new challenges to two key sections of the new federal health care law — the individual and employer mandates to have insurance coverage. The Court did so by returning the case of Liberty University v. Geithner (docket 11-438) to the Fourth Circuit Court to consider those challenges. 

The Court last Term had simply denied review of Liberty University’s appeal, but on Monday wiped out that order and agreed to send the case back to the appeals court in Richmond for further review.

The Court did not grant any new cases, but did dispose of one new case with a summary ruling.  In Nitro-Lift Technologies v. Howard (11-1377), the Court ruled that the Oklahoma Supreme Court was wrong in preventing arbitration of a dispute over the scope of non-competition agreements in employment contracts.

Among the Court’s more significant orders denying review, it refused to hear a claim that the Constitution requires states to allow an accused an opportunity to use insanity as a defence to a criminal charge.   The case of Delling v. Idaho (11-1515) was denied over the dissents of three Justices — Stephen G. Breyer, joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.  (Disclosure: attorneys who have roles in the publication of this blog were involved as attorneys in this case.  The author of this post operates independently of their law practice.)

The Court’s decision last Term on the new health care law upheld, under Congress’s power to tax, the requirement that virtually all Americans have health insurance by 2014, or pay a penalty.   That is the individual mandate.  The law also contains a somewhat similar mandate, requiring all employers with more than 50 employees to provide them with adequate insurance coverage.  The Court had declined to rule on that issue last Term.

Liberty University has been pursuing a challenge to both mandates, based on claims that they violate rights to religious freedom or to legal equality under the Constitution. 

The Fourth Circuit had not ruled on either of those claims, because it ruled that Liberty was barred by the Federal Anti-Injunction Act from suing to stop those mandates.  That is one of the issues the Circuit Court will have to reconsider when the case is returned there. The Court cleared the way for doing so by vacating and remanding the Circuit Court’s earlier decision.

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