By Rick Manning — Legal actions against Obamacare are clearly still considered viable as the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to hear Liberty University’s suit against provisions of the law under First Amendment grounds.
Does this give hope that other lawsuits based upon other aspects of the law might find support from the Supremes?
From Fox News:
The Supreme Court on Monday ordered a federal appeals court to reconsider Liberty University’s legal argument that President Obama’s health care law violates the school’s religious freedom.
The case will be returned to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
“Today’s ruling breathes new life into our challenge to ObamaCare,” Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which filed the suit on behalf of the school, said Monday. “Our fight against ObamaCare is far from over.”
A federal judge in 2010 rejected Liberty’s claim, and the appeals court later ruled the lawsuit was premature and failed to address the substance of the school’s arguments.
The Supreme Court upheld the health care law in June 2012.
In the high court’s 5-4 decision, the justices used lawsuits filed by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business to uphold the health care law, then rejected all other pending appeals, including Liberty’s.
The school is challenging the constitutionality of the part of the law that mandates employers provide insurance and whether forcing insurers to pay for birth control is unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause.
The appeals court ruled last year the Anti-Injunction Act barred it from addressing the merits in the case. The act blocks any challenge to a “tax” before a taxpayer pays it — in this case referring to the penalties associated with failing to obtain health insurance.
However, the Supreme Court’s ruling stated the act did not serve as a barrier to lawsuits challenging the health care law. On that basis, Liberty University immediately petitioned the court to allow it to renew its original case.
Americans for Limited Government consulted our own Obamacare expert John Vinci, Esq. for his take on today’s Supreme Court ruling. Here is his explanation:
The Supreme Court is allowing a case brought by Liberty University to move forward that challenges Obamacare’s lack of religious liberty protections toward those mandated to purchase insurance with abortion coverage against their consciences and that challenges Obamacare’s job-killing employer mandate.
The Liberty University case challenges two different aspects of Obamacare’s employer mandate arguing that Congress exceeded its taxing and commerce powers in its enactment of the mandate and that the demand that all employers provide abortion and contraceptive coverage regardless of religious objections was a violation of First Amendment freedoms.
Liberty v. Geithner has been sent to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, sometimes called the “Rocket-Docket” because of how quickly and efficiently it hears and adjudicates cases. The Fourth Circuit is expected to hear the case as soon as this spring, and, if the Supreme Court later agrees to hear the case, it may do so as early as next fall. A decision in this case could affect the 40 cases that have been filed against Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate.
The employer mandate is expected to receive other challenges as it goes into effect, including one proposed by the Cato Institute which notes that there is no enforcement power in the statute compelling employers in states where there is not a state health insurance exchange to comply. IRS regulations have subsequently been developed to fill this legislative decision. The legality of these IRS enforcement regulations are likely to be a major point of future legal contention as currently twenty states have rejected the only mechanism for enforcing the employer mandate.