Wednesday, January 26, 2011

United States files its brief in Baldwin v. Sebelius

This evening, the United States filed its brief (as appellee) in Baldwin v. Sebelius at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. You can access the brief here.

(Speaking of the Ninth Circuit, has any circuit ever been reversed by the Supreme Court by a cumulative vote total of 41 to 0 in the span of six days? Ouch.)

In the decision being appealed, the District Court of the Southern District of California held that the plaintiffs lacked standing. Its ruling was broader than that handed down by the District of New Jersey in the New Jersey Physicians case, in that it did not turn so much on the specific factual allegations made by the plaintiffs, but more generally on the uncertainty that the plaintiffs would be subject to any sort of penalty under ACA 1501(b) by the time January 1, 2014 rolled around.

Thus, the judgment under review in Baldwin only addressed the standing issue. But, on very similar facts in Thomas More Law Center v. Obama, the United States (before the Sixth Circuit) has chosen not to challenge the district court's holding that the plaintiffs do have standing to challenge the minimum coverage provision. Here in Baldwin, the United States nonetheless argues that the district court's decision that the plaintiffs lack standing should be affirmed.

Perhaps because of the the tension in these positions, the United States devotes only five pages in its Baldwin brief to the standing question. The remainder (32 pages) is devoted to defending the constitutionality of the minimum essential coverage requirement (even though the district court did not reach the question).

As with the filings in Thomas More Law Center, Beth Brinkmann (from DOJ Civil Appellate) is on the brief and appears to be directing the United States's appellate strategy.