The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals made a decision today in the Virginia lawsuit brought by state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The court ruled the state does not have standing to challenge Obamacare’s individual mandate provision because it lacks a personal stake. The court also found that Liberty University couldn’t challenge the law before the mandate goes into effect. The individual mandate penalties were essentially labeled as a tax by the court. Chief Judge Diana Gribbon specifically pointed to the federal Anti-Injunction Act which prohibits taxpayers from challenging a tax in court prior to paying the tax.
In the lower court decision, the Virginia district judges were the first to declare the national healthcare law unconstitutional. At the Fourth Circuit level, the judges vacated the lower court’s ruling and instructed the lower court to dismiss the suit due to lack of jurisdiction. Two of the judges in the Fourth Circuit case were appointed by Obama himself.
The Virginia ruling is the second appellate court decision affirming the government’s right to require individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also upheld the law while the Eleventh Circuit Court struck down the individual mandate.
This decision, while technically a legal victory for the Obama Administration, may not provide much political support since the ruling did not focus on the actual merits of the law. Regardless, this decision only deepens the existing divide between the regional federal appellate courts, increasing the likelihood of the U.S. Supreme Court’s involvement down the road.