Lifestyle & Belief

Appeals court blocks challenge to health care reform law

A federal appeals court in Virginia ruled on Thursday that Virginia's attorney general does not have legal standing to challenge the federal health care reform law in court.

The New York Times reports that the Fourth Circuit court is the third appellate court to rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that Americans obtain insurance.

The other two have divided on the question of the law’s constitutionality, making it likely that the matter will be settled by the United States Supreme Court. Ruling first, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati ruled two-to-one in favor of the law. Then the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta ruled against the individual mandate portion of the law, also by two-to-one.

In a statement after the ruling, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said he would appeal the ruling, without specifying to which court, Bloomberg reports.

The judges ruled that a Virginia law saying that that no state resident can be forced to buy insurance didn't allow the state to challenge the federal law.

“To permit a state to litigate whenever it enacts a statute declaring its opposition to federal law, as Virginia has,” Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote, “would convert the federal judiciary into a ‘forum’ for vindication of a state’s ‘generalized grievances about the conduct of government.’"

The court also tossed a separate challenge brought by Liberty University, the Christian school founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. Mathew Staver, dean of the Liberty University School of Law told Bloomberg he thought the ruling was “astounding," and said the school will now petition the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Because this suit constitutes a pre-enforcement action seeking to restrain the assessment of a tax, the Anti-Injunction Act strips us of jurisdiction,” Motz wrote in a 2-1 decision dismissing Liberty's case. 

“[W]e welcome the dismissal of these two challenges," Tracy Schmaler, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, said in a statement.