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WASHINGTON, D.C. - (Mealey's) A Christian school on Oct. 10 filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking review of a divided lower court decision that held that the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA) stripped the court of jurisdiction to hear a challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (Liberty University, et al. v. Timothy Geithner, et al., W.D. Va.).
On Nov. 30, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia dismissed a challenge to the PPACA brought by Liberty University Inc., Martha A. Neal, Michele G. Wadell, Dr. David Stein, Pausanias Alexander, Mary T. Bendorf, Joanne V. Merrill, Kathy Byron and Jeff Helgeson against U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, finding that Congress acted within its constitutionally delegated powers under the commerce clause when it passed the employer and individual mandates contained in the PPACA.
In a divided opinion, the majority of a Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Sept. 8 held that the AIA strips the court of jurisdiction to hear Liberty University's challenge to the PPACA and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. The dissenting judge said he would affirm the lower court's decision that Congress acted within its powers in passing the challenged provisions of the act.
In the petition, the plaintiffs say the Fourth Circuit's decision that the AIA stripped the court of jurisdiction conflicts with precedent of the Supreme Court, with a Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision on an identical challenge to the PPACA and with other circuit courts that differentiate between taxes and penalties.
The Fourth Circuit's conclusion that the AIA bars the action is a mischaracterization of the claims, the plaintiffs say. The plaintiffs say they are not challenging the assessment or collection of the noncompliance penalties, but are questioning "whether the federal government can issue a mandate that Americans purchase and maintain health insurance from a private company for the entirety of their lives." It is the mandates, and Congress' authority to enact such mandates, that are at the heart of the case, so as such, the AIA does not apply, they add.
This case is the only case that presents the threshold question of the AIA and the individual and employer mandate, the plaintiffs say.
Also, the court should grant plenary review to determine whether the commerce clause or taxing and spending clause gives Congress the authority to force individuals into the stream of commerce by purchasing a government-mandated health insurance product and compel employers to provide health insurance to employers, the plaintiffs say.
The Fourth Circuit's implicit finding that the mandates are proper exercises of the taxing and spending clause contradicts Supreme Court precedents because the two words -- tax and penalty -- are not interchangeable and a penalty cannot be converted into a tax simply by calling it such, the plaintiffs say. The Fourth Circuit's finding that the mandates are supported by the taxing and spending power conflicts with other circuits, the plaintiffs add.
Also, the Supreme Court should grant review to determine whether the individual and employer mandates exceed the commerce clause, the plaintiffs say. There is no underlying economic or even noneconomic activity being carried out by the plaintiffs, and Congress is attempting to change the underlying nature of its authority from "regulating commerce" to "creating commerce" by mandating bystanders to become participants subject to purchasing a government-defined product, the plaintiffs say.
[Editor's Note: Full coverage will be in the Oct. 19 issue of Mealey's Managed Care Liability Report. In the meantime, the petition is available at www.mealeysonline.com or by calling the Customer Support Department at 1-800-833-9844. Document #31-111019-020B. For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]
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