Sunday, May 15, 2011

Two district court dismissals

With the help of a very kind reader, I learned that I can retrieve some lost posts through Google reader. So here is a post from last week about the two lower court dismissals under F.R.C.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Much has been happening, of course, in the high profile ACA cases--those with a good chance of getting to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, in the past three weeks, district courts have dismissed two lesser cases on the grounds that they lacked subject matter jurisdiction. More specifically, the courts held that the plaintiffs challenging the ACA lacked standing.

* On April 21, Judge Freda L. Wolfson (D.N.J.) held in Purpura v. Sebelius that the plaintiffs had failed to allege how they were personally harmed in any concrete way by the ACA. Thus, they failed to establish an injury-in-fact under Article III, and accordingly lacked standing. (This was a pro se case in which the plaintiffs, among other things, alleged that the ACA was unconstitutional because it had been signed into law by a person "ineligible to be President of the United States.")

* On April 26, Judge Rodney Sippel (E.D. Mo.) similarly held in Kinder v. Geithner that the plaintiffs had failed to allege that they were personally injured in any way by the ACA, and thus lacked standing. There are several plaintiffs in this case, raising a host of disparate claims. So I hesitate to summarize the court's reasoning in just a few sentences. Suffice it to say that, at least with respect to the individual mandate, the court's decision was extremely narrow and factbound. The plaintiffs had failed to allege that they would not purchase health insurance, or that the mandate was affecting them in some way currently. Likewise, they could not demonstrate how any of the obligations imposed on the State of Missouri were injuring them, in a concrete and personal way.

You can access the District Court for the District of New Jersey's opinion in Purpura v. Sebelius here.

And you can access the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri's opinion in Kinder v. Geithner here.

Again, these cases are peripheral (at best) in the grand scheme of things. Neither court reached the merits, and neither said much (if anything) important about the broader standing questions in play. The game is now focused, almost exclusively, on the five cases with a chance to get to the Supreme Court.