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Dept. of Justice Will Not Oppose Additional Proceedings in College's Challenge to Affordable Care Act

Dept. of Justice Will Not Oppose Additional Proceedings in College's Challenge to Affordable Care Act

November 1, 2012 — The Obama administration on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it does not object to allowing a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., to revive a lawsuit by Liberty University challenging the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), the AP/U-T San Diego reports (Sherman, AP/U-T San Diego, 10/31).

Background on Lawsuit

In the lawsuit, the conservative Christian university argues that it should have another chance to challenge the law because it opposes it on different grounds than the case that ended up before the court (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/2). Liberty is challenging both the individual mandate and the requirement that large employers provide health coverage for their workers (Stempel, Reuters, 10/31).

Liberty claims the law violates its religious freedom by requiring the purchase of health coverage that it says indirectly contributes to the funding of abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/2). It also argues that the law violates the Constitution's equal protection guarantee and exceeds Congress' power to levy taxes and regulate commerce (Reuters, 10/31).

Prior to the Supreme Court's ruling on the ACA, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said it could not rule on Liberty's case because the Anti-Injunction Act prevents suits over a tax that has yet to be levied.

However, the Supreme Court said in its decision on the ACA that the Anti-Injunction Act did not apply to the individual mandate, which Liberty says shows that the lower court was wrong for declining its case (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/2).

DOJ's Response

In court papers, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote that Liberty's claims lack merit but that because the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals did not consider those merits, the government won't oppose further court proceedings, Reuters reports.

"Under the circumstances of this case, (the government defendants) do not oppose further proceedings in the court of appeals to resolve them," Verrilli wrote (Reuters, 10/31).

Court's Options

According to AP/U-T San Diego, if the Supreme Court justices agree to reopen the case, they most likely would formally dismiss the appeals court's ruling and order it to re-examine Liberty's lawsuit. The appeals court would have the option of requesting new legal briefs from the defendants and plaintiffs to assess the effect of the Supreme Court ruling on Liberty's claims (AP/U-T San Diego, 10/31).