There have been two true victories for opponents of the individual mandate, one in Virginia, and the second in Florida. These matters have been appealed by the federal government. At the same time, Plaintiffs have filed another dozen substantive claims in various courts throughout the country. Of those that have been ruled upon at the trial level, challengers to Obamacare have lost in every other District Court. See coverage of the other cases Liberty University v. Geithner, here, and Seven-Sky v. Holder, here.
Only one Federal Court of Appeals has ruled, and it found the individual mandate Constitutional by a vote of 2-1 (the ruling is far more complicated than the mere 2-1 vote suggests, and I explained the details here).
Where are we headed?
If you read the articles of any major news organization, it is presumed this litigation will ultimately be decided in the Supreme Court. But, there simply is no guarantee the Supreme Court will weigh in on this issue. Before the Supreme Court takes a case, they usually must see an egregious miscarriage of justice, or a conflict amongst appellate courts, or both. Right now we have one appellate opinion. For the challenges to the individual mandate to have a reasonable chance of being adjudicated in the Supreme Court there will likely need to be at least one victory for opponents of Obamacare before the Supreme Court is willing to take the case.
The most likely victories
The most likely victories will come from the Fourth or the Eleventh Circuits. These are the two Circuits in which the lawsuits filed by Virginia and the other 26 states respectively are being adjudicated. These are also the Circuits adjudicating the only victories so far. Unfortunately it looks like the Fourth Circuit is likely to uphold the individual mandate, as explained here. The Eleventh Circuit though appears to have a mixed panel, and there is a better chance of success.
Both the Fourth and Eleventh Circuits have completed briefing and oral argument and have been pending written decisions for over a month.
The rise of other opportunities
Because of the passage of time, two lesser known appeals have caught up. In the Third Circuit, New Jersey Physicians v. Obama is now pending a decision. In the Ninth Circuit, the matter of Baldwin v. Sebelius is pending a decision.
Both cases were dismissed due to a lack of standing for the Plaintiffs. Although originally standing was thought to be a large hindrance to these types of cases, the courts have been fairly responsive to the need to find standing and proceed to the merits in other jurisdictions. In fact, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding the individual mandate still goes to great lengths to explain why plaintiffs have standing in these types of cases. The victory opponents of the individual mandate are looking for may be coming any day, but it may surprisingly be coming from the Third or the Ninth Circuits.
Keep an eye on the Courts, any day now we will see our next ruling, and be one more step closer to convincing the Supreme Court to take on this major Constitutional issue.
For previous posts regarding the individual mandate please click here.