May 9 2011

Tomorrow in Richmond

Hadley Heath

Tomorrow will kick off a summer season of appeals in the lawsuits challenging Obama's health care law.  Two sets of oral arguments will be heard in Richmond in the Fourth Circuit of Appeals: the Liberty University case and the Virginia case.

If you haven't been paying attention, I'll fill you in.  The Virginia case (headed up by VA Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli) was among the first suits to be filed against DHHS on March 23, 2010 (the day the bill passed).  In terms of timing, it has led on the Florida case by about a month, facing each new step toward the Supreme Court first of all the cases that involve states as plaintiffs.  Just weeks before Christmas 2010, federal district Judge Henry Hudson (Eastern Virginia) ruled with the Plaintiffs, and declared the individual mandate to be unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs in Liberty University v. Geithner have not been as successful.  They also filed early (March 23, 2010), and amended their complaint in July.  But in November, Judge Norman Moon (Western Virginia) dismissed their case, stating in his Memorandum Opinion that the provisions of ObamaCare "are well within Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause."

But regardless of the rulings that the district level, plaintiffs will appear again tomorrow, with a chance at oral arguments before the Fourth Circuit (now "Appellee" Virginia and "Appellant" Liberty University).  Oral arguments begin at 9:30 in the Liberty case, and will be followed immediately by arguments in the Virginia case.

The Virginia case - perhaps because the Commonwealth is a plaintiff, or perhaps because of its success at the district level - has received an incredible amount of attention.  And tomorrow will be no different.  America will be watching.  As Ken Cuccinelli said, "If the states lose, it will be the end of federalism as we have known it for 200 years."  Let's hope that doesn't happen!

But listen, don't get your hopes up for tomorrow.  The Fourth Circuit will hear the arguments, but probably won't issue a decision for weeks, maybe months.  The wheels of justice go round and round, and slowly.  Luckily, in the meantime, we have plenty of other cases to watch in other Circuits.

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