In a strange twist in the ongoing court battles over the Obama administration’s health care law, the 4th Circuit today threw out a challenge to the law’s constitutionality, ruling that the law’s individual mandate is essentially a tax, and tax provisions cannot be challenged before they go into effect.
In the 2-1 ruling, the court held that the Anti-Injunction Act strips the court of jurisdiction to consider a challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Because taxes cannot be challenged before they go into effect, and the individual mandate does not go into effect until 2014, the court vacated a lower court ruling upholding the law with instructions to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.
In a separate ruling, the court also held that the state of Virginia lacked jurisdiction to challenge the law.
This is the second federal appellate court to consider the challenge to the law. In July the 6th Circuit upheld the law’s constitutionality. Challengers in that case filed a petition for certiorari, and the U.S. Supreme Court could take the case up during its next term, which begins next month.
More on these rulings as well as ongoing coverage of the challenge to the health care law to come on Lawyers USA online.