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Health care challenge hits the high court

The first certiorari petition in the challenge to the federal health care law reached the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, giving the Court a chance to add yet another high-profile case to the October 2011 Term docket – which is already shaping up to be a blockbuster.

The petitioners in the case, which challenges the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, are asking the Court to reverse a 6th Circuit ruling last month upholding the law’s constitutionality. The ruling was the first from a federal appellate court considering the constitutionality of the law and its provision imposing tax penalty on those who fail to purchase a minimum level of health insurance beginning in 2014. Similar cases are pending in the 4th and 11th Circuits.

Though the Court usually accepts cases involving issues that create a split among the circuits, the Court can take up a case were a “United States court of appeals has decided an important question of federal law that has not been, but should be, settled by this Court,” according to its rules.

If the Court takes up the case, it will add to a docket already rife with cases considering high-profile issues such as whether police can install GPS devises on cars without a warrant (U.S. v. Maynard), whether the Federal Communications Commission’s indecency-enforcement regime violates the First or Fifth Amendment (FCC v. Fox), and whether it is constitutional for jails to strip search arrestees upon their admission to the general population, regardless of the severity of their alleged offenses (Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington).

And there are still even higher profile cases waiting in the wings that the Court could take up this upcoming term, such as the challenge to the constitutionality of California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, and a preemption-based challenge Arizona’s immigration law that gives police the power check the immigration status of an individual who is stopped.

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