Va. pushes Supreme Court to review health reform lawsuit

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 21, 2011

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Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review his state's lawsuit against the national health system reform law now, instead of waiting for a decision from the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

On Feb. 8, Cuccinelli filed a petition with the Supreme Court arguing for a prompt resolution to the lawsuit, "given the uncertainty caused by divergent court rulings" on the law's constitutionality. He is one of several state attorneys general and others challenging the law's implementation.

Federal judges in Virginia and other states have issued conflicting decisions about whether the reform statute -- particularly the requirement that people buy health insurance or pay a penalty -- violates the Constitution. Most recently, a U.S. district judge in Pensacola, Fla., ruled Jan. 31 that the reform law was unconstitutional.

In Cuccinelli's case, a district judge in December 2010 struck down the individual mandate portion of the law. The judge did not invalidate the entire law or prevent it from going into effect, which Cuccinelli had sought. The Justice Dept. appealed the ruling to the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, where the case is pending.

Two other judges have upheld the law's insurance mandate as constitutional, and 13 similar challenges have been dismissed. All of those cases also are being appealed.

Appeals generally are heard first at the federal appellate level. However, the U.S. Supreme Court can agree to hear a case if it's proven to be of extreme public importance. The high court has not indicated whether it will review the case. Legal experts said justices rarely agree to hear a case before the Court of Appeals, and in an interview in early February, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the court usually waits "until the case goes through the ordinary route."

Note: This item originally appeared at

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