Friday, February 11, 2011

Update on Baldwin v. Sebelius

With all of the other goings on in Virginia v. Sebelius and Florida v. HHS, I have neglected some happenings in Baldwin v. Sebelius, the case currently pending in the Ninth Circuit.

First, the appellants have filed their reply brief, which you can access here. That completes the briefing.

Second, the appellants have filed a petition seeking en banc review, which you can access here. This is not a petition for rehearing en banc, which is fairly common, but rather a request that the case be heard in the first instance by an en banc panel. (In the Ninth Circuit, because of its size, such panels comprise eleven judges.)

Third, although the district court in this case only reached the question of standing, the appellants have spent most of their time arguing the merits of section 1501(b)'s unconstitutionality. And given the current political dynamics, and depending on the composition of the panel drawn in the Ninth Circuit, it seems possible that the court would go ahead and reach the merits. Specifically, one could imagine a politically liberal panel wanting to issue an opinion that reaches the merits and upholds the ACA.

The Ninth Circuit has yet to set a date for argument. But given that briefing is already complete, it is conceivable that it will be the first ACA case argued in any court of appeals. Thus, if the court reaches the merits, there is the possibility it will constitute the first appellate word on the minimum coverage provision's constitutionality.